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THE INCENDIARY BESTSELLER! 
“LASKYS BLOCKBUSTER. . .IS BOTH A 
LITERARY AND A POLITICAL EVENT!” 
—William Safire, author of Full Disclosure 



T 




START 

WITH 

INATHtGATE 

VICTOR LASKY 

author of J.F.K.: THE MAN AND THE MYTH 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



“The first carefully researched blast of criti- 
cism at the fusion of hypocrisy and hysteria 
that gripped this nation in 1973 and 1974 . . . 
Mr. Lasky may have intended to write a 
rock-’em, sock-’em everybody-did-it defense 
of Mr. Nixon, but the import of his book is 
more profound. . . . Lasky’s blockbuster . . . 
is not like any book on the Watergate shelf.” 

— William Safire, 
author of Full Disclosure 



“NO DEFENSE OF THE IDIOCIES OR 
MISDEEDS OF WATERGATE, OR EVEN 
NIXON HIMSELF . . . LASKY’S BOOK IS 
ABOUT THE PRIMARY EXPORT OF 
THIS CAPITAL CITY— HYPOCRISY . . . 
EMINENTLY READABLE.” 

— New York Daily News 



“AN IMPORTANT, INFORMATIVE AND 
EYE-OPENING BOOK.” 



— Nashville Banner 



IT 

DIDN’T 
START WITH 
WATERGATE 



VICTOR LASKY 



A DELL BOOK 



Published by 

DELL PUBLISHING CO., INC. 

1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza 
New York, N.Y. 10017 

Copyright © 1977 by Victor Lasky 

All rights reserved. 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form 
or by any means without the prior written permission of 
The Dial Press, New York, N.Y. 10017, 
excepting brief quotes used in connection with reviews 
written specifically for inclusion in a magazine or newspaper. 

Dell ® TM 681510, Dell Publishing Co., Inc. 

ISBN: 0-440-14400-0 

Reprinted by arrangement with 
The Dial Press 

/ 

Printed in the United States of America 
First Dell printing — January 1978 





TO MY WIFE 






V 









IT 

DIDN’T 
■START WITH 
WATERGATE 



ONE 



Some day when the passions aroused by Watergate begin 
to subside — as perhaps they have already begun to do — 
objective historians may well begin to ask themselves just 
what all the furor was about. 

And this has become a matter of major concern for those 
who have never made any bones about their hatred of 
Richard M. Nixon. Thus former Representative Jerome R. 
Waldie, the California Democrat who had loudly partici- 
pated in the impeachment proceedings, thought that Presi- 
dent Ford’s pardon of the former President was “a mis- 
take in terms of timing because it denied history an element 
of truth” about what crimes actually were committed. 

“I don’t think there are many doubts now,” said Waldie, 
“but I’m worried about what historians will say fifty or 
one hundred years from now. I’m worried that they will 
not be as aware as we are of his complicity . . .” 

But complicity in what? Precisely what is Nixon accused 
of doing, if he actually did it, that his predecessors didn’t 
do many times over? The break-in and wiretapping at the 
Watergate? Just how different was that from the bugging 
of Barry Goldwater’s apartment during the 1964 presi- 
dential campaign? 

Granted that two wrongs don’t make a right; but in law 
and politics, two wrongs can make a respectable precedent. 
And despite its well-publicized excesses, Watergate had 
numerous though less-publicized precedents in previous 
administrations. Taping of phones under Nixon? Why, 
that was a way of life under John F. Kennedy. The use of 
the Internal Revenue Service to harass political opponents? 
Why, one of the more fascinating things to come to light in 
Watergate’s wake was the revelation that the Kennedy 
regime had subjected Nixon to annoying tax audits. 

In many ways Watergate can be considered a media 



10 



VICTOR LASKY 



event. For without its demonstrated hostility to Nixon par- 
ticularly, and right-of-center Republicans generally, Water- 
gate would not have been blown up into hysterical propor- 
tions. The fact is that Democratic scandals of comparable, 
if not greater, significance were permitted to glide by with- 
out any of the overwhelming and unrelenting attention later 
paid Watergate by a press which, in its lust for machismo , 
sought to disembowl a hated President. At the same time 
every effort was made to redress the American political 
balance leftward, after its rightist drift. The aim of these 
partisans in nonpartisan clothing was retroactively to “win” 
the 1972 election. And, for the most part, they succeeded. 

The eagerness of much of the media to commit regicide 
was freely conceded by Waldie. He noted that the press 
“disliked Nixon intensely,” and he doubted whether the 
President would have been forced out of office “if the 
press had not desired it.” 

In contrast, according to Waldie, the press coverage of 
Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination as Vice President was 
“abominable.” Contending that Rocky’s alleged involve- 
ment in “criminal acts” while serving as governor was 
treated “gently” by the media, Waldie insisted that the 
leading newspapers in the nation — The New York Times , 
the Los Angeles Times , the Washington Post , among 
others — wanted him confirmed, hence the laying off. 

Whatever the merits of Waldie’s argument, Nixon was 
banished into self-imposed exile, a broken man, while 
Rockefeller was confirmed as Vice President, a heartbeat 
away from the presidency itself. Whether Rockefeller, as 
governor of the Empire State, committed “crimes” is most 
arguable. But Waldie believes he did, as he believes Nixon 
did. 

Less arguable is the thesis that never before in the his- 
tory of the Republic has any man, in high office or out, 
been so thoroughly investigated as was Nixon. He was 
stripped and humiliated in public; his innermost thoughts as 
recorded on tapes were transcribed for a nation of voyeurs; 
and his income and expenditures down to the last penny 
were spread before every nit-picking tax lawyer. Even his 
psyche was probed without letup and amateur analysts 
questioned his sanity. 

Finally, after resisting a merciless campaign of hatred 
and ridicule the likes of which had never before been 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 11 

leveled against any previous President, Nixon buckled. Un- 
able to lead the nation at a time of burgeoning crises, some 
of which were the direct result of his weakened presi- 
dency, he resigned, the first Chief Executive in the nation’s 
history to do so. The predominantly liberal media had 
helped bring down a President. The fourth estate had never 
before felt so powerful. 

But was all this necessarily good for the nation? 

Former Senator J. William Fulbright, for one, didn’t 
think so. The Arkansas Democrat, who until his retire- 
ment from the Senate in 1974 headed the Foreign Rela- 
tions Committee, considers the role of the press in Water- 
gate disturbing. 

In fact, as a writer for The New York Times Magazine 
put it, Fulbright “sounds almost like Julie Nixon Eisen- 
hower as he criticizes the press.” The writer, Daniel Yergin, 
quoted the former senator as having said: 

The Watergate was ballooned up into an enormous 
issue. People like those two reporters who uncov- 
ered it for the Washington Post and the Post itself — 
they were sort of like Christopher Columbus — they 
had discovered a whole new world. People made repu- 
tations overnight discovering some new scandal. 
They’re still doing it, they just love it. The papers are 
devoted almost altogether to stories of this kind. . . . 
No one really approved of wiretapping, going back 
fifty years, but we all knew it was going on, and all 
accepted it — and a lot of other practices. In their 
minds people don’t apprpve of covert CIA activities, 
and yet the majority of people say we’ve got to do it 
because the others are doing it.”* 

Fulbright, incidentally, would have settled for a Senate 
censure of Nixon, believing that act alone would have 
been enough to discipline what he described as an “ar- 
rogant” administration. But with the pressures being ex- 
erted without letup by a rampaging media, that was not to 
be. Instead we witnessed not only the political assassina- 
tion of a President but the near-destruction of the prestige 

♦Daniel Yergin, “Fulbright’s Last Frustration,” The New York 
Times Magazine , Nov. 24, 1974. 



12 



VICTOR LASKY 



of the presidency itself — with great damage to the nation 
both at home and abroad. The consequences will be felt for 
generations to come. 

That Watergate has been blown up out of all propor- 
tion to the realities — becoming a veritable “teapot in a 
tempest,” to reverse the phrase — is the guiding thesis of 
the chapters that follow. As is the fact that Adam and 
Eve did not tryst at the Watergate. Original and subse- 
quent sin were around a long time before Nixon was sworn 
into office. And political transgressions did not cease with 
the banishment of Nixon to San Clemente. Now we know 
that while Jimmy Carter was jetting around during the 
1976 primaries preaching goodness, honesty, compassion, 
and all the virtues of “born-again” Christianity, his minions 
were resorting to that most ancient of political evils — buy- 
ing votes. And with federal funds yet. Jimmy’s boys got 
caught, but most of the media couldn’t have cared less. The 
first scandal of the Carter campaign was quickly and con- 
veniently forgotten after the Democratic standardbearer 
conceded publicly that it was all so embarrassing. 

“Watergate,” of course, has become a catch-all for a 
variety -of political sins, real and imagined. And all of it 
flowed from the break-in at the headquarters of the Dem- 
ocratic National Committee which was largely the result 
of poor judgment and amateurish stupidity on the part of 
the participants. Rarely has there been a more inane caper. 
Everything went wrong — as if by design. The walkie- 
talkies malfunctioned; the lock-picker had difficulty pick- 
ing locks; and the burglars bugged the wrong phones, 
cut themselves on broken glass, and practically invited dis- 
covery. When apprehended, they were found to possess 
incriminating address books as well as large sums of cur- 
rency easily traceable to the Nixon reelection effort. It 
was almost as if they had been deliberately dropping clues. 

The extraordinary thing about the inane caper was that 
leading Democrats and at least one prominent journalist 
knew well in advance that something of the sort was in 
the works. As for the Democrats, they took no extra pre- 
cautions to guard against the break-in. In fact they chortled 
with glee when the event finally took place. Of course, 
publicly, they viewed it with excessive alarm. 

And while the break-in and wiretapping cannot be con- 
doned, even if their fruits were almost nil, the so-called 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 13 

cover up and obstruction of justice can easily be explained 
in terms of human and natural reactions. They were not 
the “crimes of the century” as trumpeted by a gleeful 
media. For, in the final analysis, the “Great Conspiracy” 
consisted of a series of hastily contrived, last-minute ac- 
tions aimed at figuring a way out of a mess whose origins 
to this day remain obscure. 

All of which is not to say that Nixon did not help con- 
tribute to his own destruction. He blundered in the han- 
dling of the problems created by the break-in. He now con- 
cedes they were “errors of judgment.” At first he did not 
take the episode seriously. After all, political skulduggery, 
including wiretapping, had been practiced on him during 
his many campaigns. As he viewed it, it was all part of 
the game. What he had not counted on was the ferocity 
of an unforgiving media. 

In the final analysis, therefore, Richard Nixon was less 
the sinner than he was sinned against. Or as Chancellor W. 
Allen Wallis of the University of Rochester put it, “The 
reaction by journalists and politicians to the Watergate 
break-in has been morally even more corrupt than the 
Watergate activities themselves.” 

There is probably no greater evidence of that corruption 
than the deliberate ignoring by much of the media and such 
political luminaries as Senator Sam Ervin of the numerous 
political excesses — some of which make Watergate look 
like penny-ante stuff — committed by Nixon’s predecessors. 
But unlike Nixon, none of his predecessors in the Oval 
Office ever faced the remotest possibility of impeachment. 
Most of them were secure in the knowledge that ma- 
jorities of their own party controlled the Congress; and 
they all presided during periods when the nation’s capital 
was not in the mood to eviscerate itself — as was the case 
during the Nixon years. Moreover none of them was naive 
enough to install taping systems which constantly recorded 
the most confidential of conversations. More importantly, 
none ever squandered his political power so ineptly. If 
Richard Nixon was guilty of anything at all, it was his 
inability to hold on to the bverwhelming mandate given 
him by the American people in 1972. 

The hypocrisy so evident in much of the bewailing of 
Watergate was noted by none other than Alexander 
Solzhenitsyn. Even before he left the Soviet Union, the 



14 T VICTOR LASKY 

Nobel Prize-winning author referred to the “dense hy- 
pocrisy characteristic of today’s American political life,” 
and, most notably, “of the Senate leaders with their dis- 
torted view of the discordant Watergate affair. 

“Without in any way defending Nixon or the Republican 
party, how can one not be amazed at the hypocritical, 
clamorous rage displayed by the Democrats? Has Ameri- 
can politics not been full of mutual deceit and cases of 
misconduct during previous election campaigns, except, 
perhaps, that they were not on such a high level of 
electronic technology and remained happily undiscovered?” 

Never were truer words written. 

So, did the Good Guys really win? Were there actually 
any Good Guys in all of this? Did Watergate produce a 
new race of heroes? The record, alas, as revealed in the 
following pages, shows few heroes but many hypocrites. 



TWO 



Being human, all Presidents have had their character flaws, 
Richard Nixon most definitely not excepted. But in the 
emotions engendered during the Watergate period, previous 
presidents were eulogized to an incredible degree in order 
to point out Nixon’s deficiencies. This trend was carried to 
a ludicrous extreme when The New Yorker asked prom- 
inent persons “to tell us their reactions” to the famous (or 
infamous) edited transcripts of the tape recordings made 
by Nixon as President. 

“I’ve read about half the transcripts, and the contrast 
with the Johnson White House is enormous,” intoned Jo- 
seph A. Califano, Jr., who had been special assistant to 
President Johnson. “I think it’s an utterly amoral discus-, 
sion. ... It really is a group of amoral people saving 
their own skins. . . . It’s not really comparable to any- 
thing that happened to Johnson.” 

“What struck me first was the squalor of the Nixon 
White House,” commented Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the in- 
house and still functioning apologist for the Kennedy ad- 
ministration. “Nixon was always proud of his historic firsts, 
and this beats all his predecessors in sleaziness.” 

Apparently Schlesinger and Califano didn’t have the 
faintest idea of what really went on behind the scenes in 
the administrations they so loyally and unquestioningly 
served. Schlesinger, for example, couldn’t possibly have 
known about the numerous party girls sharing the Presi- 
dent’s bed. There were of course other, “nicer” young ladies 
who dallied in the delights of Camelot while Jackie was 
away — and she was away frequently. And a few aides 
close to the dashing young President were aware of how 
JFK would while away those precious moments between 
crises. But not apparently Schlesinger, who in none of his 
adulatory writings ever portrayed JFK for what he was — 



16 



VICTOR LASKY 



an activist President beyond Warren G. Harding’s wildest 
hopes and dreams. 

In any case Schlesinger and Califano have been unduly 
modest about the legacies both John Fitzgerald Kennedy 
and Lyndon Baines Johnson bequeathed to Richard Mil- 
hous Nixon. The fact remains that the whole truth was 
not fully served by their predictably pompous reactions to 
the Nixon tapes. 

For there was little that was done during the Nixon 
administration of an offending nature that had not been 
done by preceding administrations, sometimes in spades. As 
Vermont Royster observed, “The harsh fact is that almost 
every single action of the Watergate perpetrators — wire- 
tapping, spying on political enemies, covering up political 
malfeasance — has its antecedent example somewhere in re- 
cent history.” The editor-emeritus of the Wall Street Jour- 
nal also noted that “from Roosevelt to Nixon, Presidents 
at times concealed what they were doing and sometimes 
even lied to the country.” And while not excusing Nixon, 
there can be little doubt that he was subjected to a scrutiny 
that no other President was ever subjected to or, most 
likely, ever will be again. 

Apparently referring to his good friend John Kennedy, 
Joseph Alsop once wrote, “I myself have seen a felony be- 
ing cheerfully compounded by a President of the United 
States, whose loss was one of the greatest losses of my life. 
It was vastly to his own advantage but equally to the ad- 
vantage of this country. I laughed and said nothing.” 

Let’s read that again. A felony — that is, a criminal act — 
was “compounded” by a President. That does not neces- 
sarily mean that the President committed the original 
crime. But it could mean that, for a consideration (perhaps 
to protect his administration) he agreed not to prosecute 
or punish a wrongdoer — in other words, a cover-up of 
some presumably evil deed. Which, of course, was so 
funny that Alsop laughed and said nothing. What wasn t 
funny is the fact that Joe could have opened himself up to 
prosecution on a charge of obstructing justice in failing to 
report such criminal behavior. Fortunately for him, the 
statute of limitations undoubtedly applies in his case. 

Whatever else can be said of Nixon, there was one thing 
he did not do in his five and a half years in office. As far 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 17 

as the record shows, he did not discuss the pros and cons 
of murdering foreign leaders who had aroused his ire. This 
is precisely what Kennedy did in a conversation with 
George Smathers, then a senator from Florida. 

That conversation was recounted by Smathers in an oral 
history interview recorded on March 31, 1964, for the 
Kennedy Library.* The transcript reads: 

We had further conversation of assassination of Fidel 
Castro, what would be the reaction, how would the 
people react, would the people be gratified. I’m sure 
he [Kennedy] had his own ideas about it, but he was 
picking my brain. ... As I recollect, he was just 
throwing out a great barrage of questions — he was 
certain it could be accomplished. . . . But the ques- 
tion was whether or not it would accomplish that 
which he wanted it to, whether or not the reaction 
throughout South America would be good or bad. And 
I talked with him about it and, frankly, at this par- 
ticular time I felt, and I later on learned that he did, 
that I wasn’t so much for the idea of assassination, 
particularly when it could be pinned on the United 
States. 

Of course this and other revelations concerning the in- 
volvement of the Kennedy brothers — Jack and Bobby — 
in assassination discussions sent their defenders up the 
wall. Truly furious was Frank Mankiewicz, who publicly 
assailed Nelson Rockefeller as a “liar” for daring to sug- 
gest that such discussions occurred in the Kennedy White 
House. How Mankiewicz could have any direct knowledge 
of what transpired during the Kennedy years is difficult 
to comprehend simply because he was not in Camelot’s 
inner circle. He did not become Robert Kennedy’s press 
aide until several years after JFK’s untimely death. 

But that did not prevent Mankiewicz from going after 
William Satire who, in his column in The New York Times 
made the point that, as President, Nixon never ordered the 

♦As reported in Richard J. Walton, Cold War and Counterrevolution : 
The Foreign Policy of John F. Kennedy (New York: Viking, 1972) 
pp. 47-48. 



18 



VICTOR LASKY 



murder of a fellow chief of state. Satire’s implication was 
that Kennedy may well have done so. And that led Man- 
kiewicz to write a lengthy rebuttal for the Washington 
Post, in which he contended that “Satire’s column is rep- 
resentative of a well-orchestrated campaign on the part of 
die-hard believers in Nixon’s innocence to make us forget 
the hard-earned lessons of Watergate by encouraging us to 
believe that all recent Presidents shared Nixon’s genuinely 
and uniquely low moral standards.” 

It was, of course, an intemperate remark. True, Satire 
had been a speechwriter for Nixon; but he was far from 
being a “die-hard” believer in “Nixon’s innocence.” More- 
over the reference to a “well-orchestrated campaign” was 
strictly a figment of an overworked imagination. That 
Mankiewicz was carrying a heavy work load was evi- 
denced by the fact that in a short period of time he had 
written several books portraying Nixon as the arch villain 
of all time; had traveled to Cuba, where he interviewed 
Castro at length for a friendly film documentary; and had 
co-authored another book based on his Cuban experiences 
in which Fidel most definitely is not portrayed as villain- 
ous. At the same time he appointed himself the chief de- 
fender of the Kennedy name and honor, even though he 
conceded he did not know all the facts. 

Like Mankiewicz, Schlesinger was also fit to be tied by 
the assassination revelations. But Artie was more temperate 
in his defense of the Kennedys. He didn’t go around call- 
ing people “liars” for saying there’s evidence linking anti- 
Castro plotting to the Kennedys. Obviously he was not too 
certain as to just what the facts were. In an article in the 
Wall Street Journal Schlesinger noted that just prior to 
the Bay of Pigs he had sat in on many “top secret White 
House meetings” dealing with that upcoming fiasco, but 
that not once had the subject of bumping off Castro ever 
come up. This was indeed a remarkable confession on the 
part of the author of the “definitive” book on the Kennedy 
years, a Pulitzer Prize winner yet. For it demonstrated that 
Schlesinger never really knew what went on in the top 
echelons of the White House. One reason for that, as 
Dean Rusk once suggested in another context, was that 
everyone knew — from Kennedy down — that Artie was a 
blabbermouth. And the word went out from the Oval 
Office not to tell Schlesinger anything of consequence lest 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 19 

such information should become public knowledge among 
the Georgetown set that very night. 

The die-hard loyalty of such Kennedy mythmakers was 
truly something to behold. According to the likes of 
Mankiewicz and Schlesinger, the Kennedys rarely, if ever, 
did anything wrong. Even when it was firmly established, 
for example, that Robert Kennedy directed the FBI to 
place a wiretap on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mankie- 
wicz came up with an explanation fully exonerating his 
former employer. Mankiewicz did not deny the tap. He 
conceded that Kennedy did approve “one wiretap on the 
office of Martin Luther King,” but only one. Which is 
somewhat like saying that the young lady was only a little 
bit pregnant.* But, wrote Mankiewicz, “the purpose was to 
attempt to prove or disprove a charge — by FBI Director J. 
Edgar Hoover — that a secret Communist was working for 
King. The results were negative. . . .” 

The implication was that Robert Kennedy was the in- 
nocent dupe of the malevolent Hoover; and that as Attorney 
General he rarely, if ever, authorized the use of wiretaps. 

A more reliable account as to why the King inquiry was 
launched has been provided by one of JFK’s best friends, 
Charles Bartlett. In his column for the Washington Star 
Bartlett recently disclosed that the inquiry was authorized 
“in a spirit of anxiety” over Dr. King’s associations. “The 
Kennedy brothers were initially puzzled over King’s inten- 
tions. He appeared to have links that reached into both 
-the Rockefeller and Communist camps. Uncertain whether 
he was conspiring to overthrow the country or the Ken- 
nedy Administration, they readily assented to Hoover’s 
plans for close scrutiny.” 

The Kennedys’ penchant for wiretapping has lately been 
documented by more official bodies. The Rockefeller Com- 
mission on CIA Activities Within the United States, for 
example, reported that a newsman had been wiretapped 
by the CIA in 1962 — with no authority in law — “appar- 
ently with the knowledge and consent of Attorney General 
Kennedy.” The Kennedy mythmakers said nothing about 
the revelation. And these were the same people who called 

♦What Mankiewicz did not say (perhaps he did not know) was 
that that “one wiretap” remained in place for more than eighteen 
months, until removed in April 1965. 



20 



VICTOR LASKY 



for or helped fashion an article of impeachment when it 
was revealed that Nixon had approved the wiretapping of 
newsmen. 

And talk about sleaziness! In conversations with Ben- 
jamin C. Bradlee, President Kennedy would sound out his 
journalist-friend on the possibility of obtaining and pub- 
lishing information damaging to JFK’s political adver- 
saries — Bradlee who as executive editor of the Washington 
Post , which claims to have had much to do with saving 
the Constitution from Richard Nixon’s depredations, ap- 
parently was not overly concerned about such matters 
when they involved his presidential buddy.* 

For, as Bradlee discloses with little disapproval, wire- 
tapping, prying into tax returns, elections fraud, misuse of 
federal agencies — all of these, he admits in effect, were 
practiced and/or discussed in his presence by President 
Kennedy. Occasionally Kennedy had FBI Director Hoover 
over for lunch, and a little dirt for dessert. “Boy, the dirt 
he has on those Senators,” the President once said, shak- 
ing his head. And what apparently amused Kennedy more 
than anything else were Hoover’s revelations about which 
whores his former Senate colleagues were then patroniz- 
ing. On one occasion the director showed JFK a photo- 
graph of a German girl who had been involved with 
Bobby Baker — “a really beautiful woman,” sighed the 
President.** 

There was another reason for the President’s buttering 
up of Hoover. As he undoubtedly suspected, the director 
had also been keeping a file on him going back to his days 
as a young World War II naval intelligence officer, at which 
time he had been carrying on with a comely foreigner 

♦Bradlee’s diary recollections of his talks with JFK are contained 
in his extremely revealing book, Conversations with Kennedy (New 
York: W. W. Norton, 1975). The “real” Kennedy emerges from the 
pages of this instant bestseller. Commenting on excerpts published 
in advance in Playboy, columnist Satire wrote in The New York 
Times: “Nowhere in these early selections from the Kenendy tran- 
scripts is there the idealistic uplift and intellectual stimulus that we 
have been led to associate with the late President.” 

•♦Early in 1975 the Washington Post precipitated a scandal by 
charging that the FBI keeps files on the private lives of elected 
officials. The executive editor had been aware of that for more than 
a decade. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 21 

suspected of having pro-Nazi sympathies. Which apparent- 
ly was one of the reasons, if not the main one, why JFK 
on his election resisted strong liberal pressure to oust the 
director. Not even a President could know what was in 
a file kept under lock and key in Hoover’s private office. 

Thanks to Bradlee, too, we have now learned that Ken- 
nedy’s private conversation was most uninhibited. His 
scatalogical references made Nixon’s sounds like a Boy 
Scout’s. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for history, 
“Benjy” — as the President liked to call his buddy — was 
there to record the just-between-us-boys observations of a 
Chief Executive who, thanks to his speechwriters (and they 
were among the best), has gone down in history as an 
elegant, witty phrasemaker. 

Now, it turns out, there was a different Kennedy hidden 
from public view — one whose “excesses of language,” as 
Bradlee concedes, were “generally protected” by the press. 
In other words the readers of Newsweek , of which Brad- 
lee was then Washington bureau chief, were never made 
privy to the kind of language JFK generally used in 
normal, private conversation. Years later, though, News- 
week — like that other weekly publication — relished pub- 
lishing Nixon’s expletives, even those he sought to delete. 

In this connection it is amusing to recall the numerous 
articles published by the Washington Post following the 
release of the Nixon transcripts. Various aides of former 
presidents were asked to contrast the moral tone in the 
Oval Office, when they sat near the throne, with that re- 
vealed by the tape-recorded, off-the-cuff behavior of Nixon. 
Almost without exception the aides to Roosevelt, Truman, 
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson (yes, Johnson!) found 
Nixon lacking; and none more so than Pierre Salinger. 
JFK’s press secretary could hardly believe Nixon’s lan- 
guage, nor the unseemly subjects he discussed. One could 
almost visualize Pierre’s well-padded cheeks crimsoning in 
horror as he valiantly read on. 

Salinger was also perturbed by the marked informality 
in the way subordinates spoke to Nixon. In Kennedy’s day, 
wrote Salinger, he was always addressed as “sir” or “Mr. 
President.” Now, suppose circumstances were reversed, 
with the transcripts revealing that Nixon’s aides had called 
him “sir” and “Mr. President” in every sentence they ut- 



22 



VICTOR LASKY 



tered; the very same critics undoubtedly would have con- 
demned the imperial manner of the Nixon White House, 
while applauding Kennedy’s informality with his staff. 

There were a few newsmen, however, who failed to be 
smitten by JFK’s charms. One of them, the veteran Richard 
Wilson of the Cowles publications, was described by the 
young President as “the biggest S.O.B.” in the press corps. 
Once JFK referred to Wilson in naval code as a “Charlie- 
Uncle-Nan-Tare.” A puzzled Jackie demanded to know 
what exactly was “a Charlie-Uncle-Nan-Tare, for heaven’s 
sake,” but Kennedy didn’t tell her. 

Unlike Nixon, Kennedy generally relaxed with mem- 
bers of the fourth estate. A more uptight Nixon viewed the 
press corps as consisting mainly of liberal ideologues out 
to get him. And he wasn’t too far wrong. But Kennedy, 
a frustrated sometime journalist himself, felt like one of 
the boys. And he frequently talked like one. Thus while 
seeking the presidential nomination in early 1960, he con- 
fided to a few Newsweek staffers how he intended to run 
in the forthcoming primaries: “Well, I’m going to fucking 
well take Ohio, for openers.”* 

That line did not appear in print in 1960. Nor did many 
other eye-opening remarks made by Kennedy. One such 
was transmitted to Time ' s home office by a correspondent 
traveling with the pre-presidential Kennedy. Describing a 
weekend in Boston on a sultry summer day, the senator was 
quoted as having said, “It was so hot that even the niggers 
went to the beach.” Of course Time ignored the remark 
in its published coverage. Yet the people’s right to know 
anything and everything won out some years later, when 
Spiro Agnew made what he thought to be a jocular refer- 
ence to a “fat Jap” traveling in the press corps. 

Which was one of the reasons Nixon was assailed for 
having named him as his Vice President. But now we learn 
that Kennedy often referred to the man he selected as his 
Vice President as a “riverboat gambler.” And when the 
scandals involving Bobby Baker (and indirectly LBJ) 
erupted, Kennedy was as unperturbed as was Nixon when 
Watergate first came to his attention. “Kennedy,” writes 

♦This is the way the JFK statement appeared in the Playboy version 
of the Bradlee book. When the book was published, the word “fuck- 
ing” became “Goddamn.” Rather than deleting, the editors sub- 
stituted. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 23 

Bradlee, “was unwilling to knock Baker, saying, ‘I thought 
of him primarily as a rogue, not a crook. He was always 
telling me he knew where he could get me the cutest little 
girls, but he never did.’ ” 

The fascinating thing about the Bradlee books is that the 
author professes to find nothing but charm in Jack despite 
repeated instances of vindictiveness and crudity. As when 
Kennedy urged Bradlee to get Newsweek to really give 
the business to Arthur Krock, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 
columnist of The New York Times , a man then in his 
late seventies who had written the introduction to Ken- 
nedy’s college thesis, later published as the book Why 
England Slept . Annoyed by Krock’s well-reasoned criticism 
of his presidency, Kennedy suggested that Bradlee “bust 
it off in old Arthur. He can’t take it, and when you go 
after him he folds.” But Newsweek treated Krock with 
somewhat more restraint, and Kennedy, annoyed, felt the 
magazine had not “tucked it to Arty” enough. 

When Bradlee mentioned that Newsweek was planning 
to do a story on then Governor Rockefeller, the President 
suggested, “You ought to cut Rocky’s ass open a little this 
week.” Years later a young man named Donald Segretti 
was cutting up adversaries for the Nixon reelection effort. 
Now we learn that JFK sought to make Newsweek his 
Segretti. 

Kennedy asked whether Newsweek intended to look into 
Rockefeller’s war record. He was particularly anxious to 
find out where the governor had been while Kennedy 
was commanding that famous PT boat in Japanese-infested 
Pacific waters — as if he didn’t know. “Where was old Nels 
when you and I were dodging bullets in the Solomon 
Islands?” he wondered out loud. “How old was he? He 
must have been 31 or 32. Why don’t you look into that?”* 

“It is interesting,” comments Bradlee, “how often Ken- 
nedy referred to the war records of political opponents.” 
In this connection the President often mentioned Hubert 
Humphrey and Edward J. McCormack, Jr., the then 
Speaker’s nephew, who had the temerity to contest baby 
brother Teddy in the 1962 Democratic primary for the 

♦Rockefeller, born July 8, 1898, was thirty-three years old when the 
Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor. In Who's Who in America he is 
listed as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs during the war 
years 1940-44, and as Assistant Secretary of State in 1945-46. 



24 



VICTOR LASKY 



Senate seat from Massachusetts. “When are you going to 
send one of your ace reporters to look into Eddie’s rec- 
ord?” Kennedy asked Bradlee. Then Kennedy launched 
into an analysis of what he said was that record; namely, 
that McCormack had resigned his navy commission the 
very day he graduated from the Naval Academy, claiming 
a medical disability. “Half of it was nerves and half of it 
was a bad back, and he’s been drawing a sixty percent dis- 
ability ever since up until six months ago.” The President 
then suggested that Bradlee talk to his aide David Powers, 
who had even more information. 

As far as is known, Bradlee never used the Kennedy in- 
formation on McCormack. Had he done so, he undoubted- 
ly would have been challenged as to its accuracy. For the 
record shows that McCormack did not resign his com- 
mission when he graduated from Annapolis in 1946. In- 
stead he served for three years in the navy, much of that 
time as a gunnery officer on a destroyer. In 1949 he severe- 
ly hurt his back when he fell off a turret. He was then 
discharged from active duty. 

The question still remains how Kennedy was aware 
that McCormack had been drawing disability allowances 
for his injury. One can only surmise how the President 
obtained this supposedly confidential information from the 
files of the Veterans Administration, information to which 
he, even as President, was not entitled by law. 

But the best-kept secret of the Kennedy administration 
is only hinted at in the Bradlee book. And that was the 
President’s predilection for pretty girls. Kennedy’s ex- 
ploits would have put Warren Harding to shame. How 
he could find time for ail those extracurricular activities, 
even during crises, has to be one of the wonders of Came- 
lot. Perhaps his hyperactivity was stimulated by the shots 
of “speed” he frequently was given by the notorious Dr. 
Max Jacobson of New York. At any rate, according to 
Time , JFK in 1962 confided to British Prime Minister 
Harold Macmillan and Foreign Minister R. A. Butler that 
“if he went too long without a woman, he suffered head- 
aches.” 

Even more significant was the way Kennedy managed 
to carry on without a single breath of scandal reaching the 
public prints. It wasn’t because the boys with the ball- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 25 

point pens weren’t aware of what was going on. Many 
of them were. 

The media that wept copious tears about how Nixon 
degraded his office could never work up any moral indigna- 
tion about the “moral stain” brought to the White House 
by one of its heroes. This was what The New Republic 
many years later meant, in another context, when it noted 
with sorrow that relations between JFK and the press had 
indeed been too “chummy.” 

President Kennedy’s public image clashed mightily with 
his private life. The public image, presented through an 
all-too-willing media, was that of the good husband, the 
kind family man, and the perfect father. Camelot was never 
sullied by stories of what really was going on behind the 
scenes, the sybaritic, hedonistic life led by a President who 
felt he could do anything and get away with it. 

As columnist Earl Wilson put it in his book Show 
Business Laid Bare,* JFK would probably have approved 
of the contention that he was “the sexiest, swingingest 
President of the century, and not have thought it disre- 
spectful.” Wilson estimates that the President’s “score card, 
if he kept one, would probably have run into dozens, even 
possibly hundreds.” And not just celebrated actresses or 
socialites either, reports Wilson. His conquests included 
“stewardesses, secretaries, models and those strange crea- 
tures who like to offer their bodies to Big Names.” 

The Wilson book is the best source of information on 
this subject. My own sources during the Kennedy era were 
Secret Service agents assigned to guard the President. On 
an off-the-record basis they expressed concern about “Lanc- 
er’s” (JFK’s code name) dalliances with women he hardly 
knew. It wasn’t so much that they were prudish. What con- 
cerned them were the security problems involved. One 
agent even wondered aloud whether the Russians might not 
be tempted to “plant a broad” in the President’s bedroom. 
But there was little the agents could do about it. 

It was the FBI, not the Secret Service, that determined 
the President was “making out” with a young woman who, 
between appointments in the White House bedroom, was 
also keeping company with Mafia hoods Sam (“Momo”) 

♦(New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974). 



26 



VICTOR LASKY 



Giancana and John Roselli, both of whom — since all the 
recent unwelcome publicity also involving their CIA con- 
nections — have been dispatched gangland-style to meet 
their maker. And it was Edgar Hoover himself who went 
to the White House to warn the President in a private 
session that a continuance of his secret relations with 
Judith Campbell (more currently Mrs. Exner) could only 
lead to political disaster. It had been a romance that 
flourished for several years after Senator Kennedy first 
spotted the comely Judith at a party in Las Vegas. As Mrs. 
Exner now remembers the President, he was “a warm, ex- 
traordinarily energetic and inquisitive man,” who “was fas- 
cinated by Hollywood gossip and (by) who was sleeping 
with whom among the stars.” Apparently the leader of the 
Free World never let Judith in on any state secrets such 
as the plots to waste Castro which her other boyfriends 
were supposed to be carrying out for the CIA. 

But because of Hoover’s warning JFK’s relationship with 
Judith was terminated. And not too soon, either. For as 
Edwin A. Roberts, Jr., lately put it in the National Ob- 
server: “If his friendship with Judith Campbell Exner, who 
was also a friend of two Mafia leaders, hired by the CIA 
to kill Castro, had become public knowledge, it is safe to 
say that Kennedy’s political career would have been over. 
He certainly would not have been renominated and per- 
haps he would have been forced to resign.” Thus Judith 
Exner has become another romantic figure, to be remem- 
bered along with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Ted Sorensen, 
Pierre Salinger, and so many other fondly recalled names 
from the fabulous epoch of Camelot. 

Another more tragic figure involved romantically with 
JFK was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington artist and 
socialite. A year after Kennedy’s assassination Mrs. Meyer 
was shot to death while walking along the old canal tow- 
path in Georgetown. A twenty-five-year-old District man 
was arrested and tried for the death, but was acquitted. 

Mrs. Meyer had once been married to a prominent CIA 
official, Cord Meyer, Jr. Before their divorce in 1956 the 
Meyers had lived in McLean, Virginia, where Ethel and 
Robert Kennedy were next-door neighbors. Following the 
divorce, Mary, then thirty-six, moved to a Georgetown 
townhouse around the corner from her sister, Mrs. Ben- 
jamin Bradlee (yes, Benjy was her brother-in-law), and 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 27 

Senator John F. Kennedy. Her closest friends at the time 
were the Truitts, Ann and James. Ann was a sculptor and 
Mary’s confidante; Jim Truitt was then a vice president of 
the Washington Post.* 

It was the Truitts in whom Mary Meyer confided about 
her affair with Kennedy. And Truitt, an old Time-Life 
correspondent, began keeping notes of what Mary told 
him. Many years later Truitt showed his notes to and was 
interviewed by the National Enquirer . The ensuing story 
was a sensational one indeed.** 

Suffice it to say that the romance lasted from January 
1962 to November 1963, when JFK was murdered. Ac- 
cording to Truitt, the President would entertain his lady 
love in his living quarters several times a week during the 
twenty-three-month period. The two would “usually have 
drinks and dinner alone or sometimes with one of his 
aides. Then the aides would excuse themselves and leave.” 

Truitt’s notes record an episode on the night of July 16, 
1962, when Mary turned JFK on with marijuana which 
Truitt said later he had provided for the occasion. At first 
JFK didn’t feel anything, but then he began to laugh and 
reputedly told Mary: “We’re having a White House con- 
ference on narcotics here in two weeks.” After the third 

•Truitt, who had been a former assistant to publisher Philip Graham 
until he died by his own hand, was let go from the newspaper in 
late 1970. Because of that position Truitt obviously knew a lot 
about the paper’s dirty linen. So the management sought to make 
certain he wouldn’t talk by agreeing to pay him off in exchange for 
his silence. Legal hush money? 

On December 23, 1970, Frederick S. Beebe, then chairman of the 
board of the Washington Post Company, sent Truitt a letter, stating 
he had instructed “Bob Thome to send you a check for $35,000 
as full payment in connection with the termination of your employ- 
ment. . Beebe, however, added this astonishing caveat: “As I am 
sure you understand from our recent discussions, this payment is 
premised upon the assurance you have given that you will not in the 
future write anything for publication about your experiences as an 
employe at the Post that is in any way derogatory of the Company, 
Phil or the Graham family.” 

**So sensational in fact that it could not be ignored by the Wash- 
ington Post. A front-page story, written by Don Oberdorfer while 
Bradlee was vacationing in the Virgin Islands, told of JFK’s two- 
year love affair with Mrs. Meyer. But other newspapers and the net- 
work news shows generally shunned the yarn. However, New Times 
was later to explore the subject in great detail in a troubling article 
by Phillip Nobile and Ron Rosenbaum entitled “The Mysterious 
Murder of JFK’s Mistress.” 



28 



VICTOR LASKY 



joint JFK said, “No more. Suppose the Russians did some- 
thing now.” 

Following Mary’s death, her diary was uncovered by her 
sister, Tony Bradlee, who turned it over to James Angle- 
ton, then chief of CIA counterinteligence. An old friend of 
Mary Meyer, Angleton has since been vague as to what 
happened to the diary. According to Truitt, however, the 
document was taken to CIA headquarters, where it was 
destroyed. 

JFK’s fascination with Mary Meyer was alluded to by 
Bradlee in Conversations with Kennedy . In one passage 
Bradlee quotes the President as commenting after a White 
House dance in February 1962 on “the overall appeal of 
the daughter of Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and Mary 
Meyer. ‘Mary would be rough to live with,’ Kennedy 
noted, not for the first time. And I agreed, not for the 
first time.” . 

Kennedy apparently was able to keep any number of ro- 
mances going at the same time. Thus, according to Earl 
Wilson, the President had also been having a torrid ro- 
mance with Marilyn Monroe for about a year before she 
died. It was a story which the columnist decided to dis- 
close in order to “set the record straight,” because Norman 
Mailer, in his book on the actress, dwelled mainly on 
Marilyn’s friendship with Robert Kennedy. 

Another authority is Sidney Skolsky, the Hollywood 
columnist, who wound up his memoirs by apologizing for 
having failed to report at the time that JFK had climbed 
into the sack with Miss Monroe.* Then followed this sig- 
nificant observation: “I confess that I still find it grim to 
speculate on what might have happened to me if I had 
tried to write about this romance in my column when it 
first came to my attention.” 

Monroe’s death in August 1962 shook up the White 
House — and every effort was made to downplay the rela- 
tionships of Marilyn with the Kennedy brothers. For exam- 
ple Bobby had been in Los Angeles the weekend of 
Marilyn’s death. In fact women at a card party next door 
to her home claimed they saw the Attorney General “and a 
man with a doctor’s bag” enter her house the day she died. 

* Don't Get Me Wrong — l Love Hollywood (New York: G. P. Put- 
nam's Sons, 1975). 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 29 

Yet Peter Lawford, then Kennedy’s brother-in-law, insisted 
that RFK was not in California that weekend. This de- 
spite the fact that two newspapers reported him as being 
there.* 

Perhaps more significant is the fact that much of the 
official material relating to the Monroe death has disap- 
peared. The complete file was removed from the records of 
the Los Angeles Police Department and a top police of- 
ficial — now dead — is suspected of having pulled the file 
in order to curry favor with Attorney General Kennedy. 
The official had had hopes of succeeding Hoover as FBI 
director. Also missing were the records of Marilyn’s long- 
distance phone calls. According to Slatzer, many of the 
calls just prior to her death had been to Robert Kennedy. 
And her last call apparently went to Lawford. The actor 
himself told Earl Wilson that Marilyn’s last words, as she 
slipped into unconsciousness, were: “Say goodby to Pat 
[Pat Kennedy Lawford], say goodby to the President, and 
say goodby to yourself because you’re a nice guy.” 

Her death was officially listed as a “probable suicide.” 
Slatzer, who thinks otherwise, has called for a new in- 
quiry. But whatever did happen in the troubling case, the 
truth is that there had indeed been a massive cover-up, one 
designed to protect the Kennedys by hiding their relation- 
ships with the actress. And while those relationships were 
common gossip in press circles at the time, no major news- 
paper or television network appeared interested enough to 
delve into the story. 

Almost a similar state of affairs occurred seven years 
later when Senator Edward M. Kennedy drove a car carry- 
ing a young lady named Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge 
at Chappaquiddick. From the start it was obvious that 
“Teddy” was not telling the truth about the incident, which 
involved the girl’s death by drowning. A report by the in- 

* Unanswered, and troubling, questions about the Monroe death 

are raised in an extraordinary book, The Life and Curious Death 
of Marilyn Monroe, by Robert F. Slatzer, who claims to have been 
one of the actress’s former husbands (New York: Pinnacle House, 
1974). The reviews were few and far between. But Norman Mailer, 
who had written at length about Bobby’s romance with Marilyn, 
commented: “Slatzer’s book really presents such a massive amount 
of evidence of the possibility of a murder that you’re left with the 
feeling that it’s going to be harder now to prove that she did com- 
mit suicide. . . .** 



30 



VICTOR LASKY 



quest judge also characterized the senator’s driving of the 
car as probably “criminal.” And that report doubted Ken- 
nedy’s testimony on where he and the girl were headed 
when the accident took place. 

Yet the newspapers and networks dropped the story 
after reporting the senator’s convoluted explanation of 
what had happened that dark night in July 1969. It was 
an explanation devised at an amazing gathering at Hyan- 
nisport of the Camelot hierarchy come together to put a 
gloss over the events at Chappaquiddick. Fortunately for 
Kennedy, there was no tape recorder in his living room 
at the compound to record what must have been a remark- 
able discussion on how to circumvent the law. 

In the wake of Watergate, however, several publica- 
tions, including the Boston Globe and the Sunday Mag- 
azine of The New York Times , did publish belated ac- 
counts suggesting that Kennedy had not been fully re- 
sponsive about Chappaquiddick. Which, of course, was a 
polite way of calling him a liar. Nevertheless, once the 
senator announced he was removing himself as a possible 
1976 presidential contender, the matter was dropped. The 
stark fact remains that Kennedy emerged from an ap- 
parent negligent homicide with nothing more than a slap 
on the hand. 

Ironically Kennedy was the first major politician to get 
interested in Watergate. Using the staff of his Subcom- 
mittee on Administrative Practices and Procedures, he 
launched his own private inquiry into the financing of the 
break-in. And then he sought — successfully, as it turned 
out — to convince the Senate Democratic leadership to 
pursue the investigation more thoroughly. Obviously Ken- 
nedy thought he had enough experience to tell a cover- 
up when he saw one. 



THREE 



For sheer sleaziness in politics little can compare with the 
tactics employed in the relentless and humorless drive of 
the clan Kennedy to win control of the White House. And 
no one was more aware of this than Hubert Humphrey, 
who also sought the 1960 Democratic nomination for 
President. For, as Theodore White put it, the Kennedy 
organization “clubbed ,, the senator from Minnesota into 
defeat. 

At one point during the West Virginia primary Hum- 
phrey was so angered by the campaign of smear and in- 
nuendo being waged against him that he accused both Jack 
and Bobby Kennedy of being guilty of “cheap, low-down 
gutter politics.” He referred to Jack as “the spoiled candi- 
date” and to his brother, as “that young, emotional, ju- 
venile Bobby.” 

The Kennedys even brought in a surrogate to do their 
dirty work in West Virginia. In a state with a high per- 
centage of war veterans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., 
extolled Kennedy as “the only wounded veteran” running 
for President. Which, of course, could be considered hot 
stuff down in the land of cricks and hollers. But then 
Roosevelt added something new to his spiel. “There’s an- 
other candidate in your primary,” he said. “He’s a good 
Democrat, but I don’t know where he was in World 
War II.” 

The implication was quite clear: while JFK was coura- 
geously defending the nation out there in the Pacific — 
and getting wounded in the process — Hubert Humphrey 
was hiding out in the hills somewhere.* 

"'Actually Kennedy was not wounded. An old back injury, aggravated 
by his PT-109 disaster, plus a bout with malaria, brought him home 
from the Pacific. 



32 



VICTOR LASKY 



The next day the Washington Star editorially assailed the 
Roosevelt statement as “a new low in dirty politics.” 
Which indeed it was, the newspaper noting that Hum- 
phrey, married and the father of three children, had 
sought to enlist in the' navy but had been rejected for a 
physical disability. 

Kennedy not only failed to repudiate Roosevelt, but he 
issued an above-the-battle statement: “I have not discussed 
the matter and I am not going to. Mr. Roosevelt is down 
here making his speeches. I’m making mine.” 

One would have thought that common decency would 
have prevented still another attack on Humphrey. But no, 
FDR, Jr., revived the issue, this time not only blasting 
Humphrey as a “draft dodger” but reciting what he 
described as Hubert’s efforts to obtain draft deferments 
during World War II. 

Finally, after this blow was struck in his behalf, Ken- 
nedy issued a statement disapproving the injection of Hum- 
phrey’s war record, or lack of one, into the campaign. But 
at an election rally later that night Kennedy insisted that 
no one had made “a greater contribution to the discus- 
sion of the issues” than Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. 

All of which constituted a classic case of having your 
cake and eating it too. 

Years later when questioned about his smearing of 
Humphrey, FDR told Jerry Tallmer of the New York Post: 
“The only thing I can say publicly about this is that it was 
based on so-called reliable information which was made 
available to me; and that it was used in the heart of the 
closing days of a vital and decisive primary; and that when 
) I found it was unwarranted I went to Mr. Humphrey and 
not only ate crow but asked for his forgiveness.” 

Privately, however, he admitted that the “so-called re- 
liable information” about Humphrey had come to him 
in dossier form from Robert Kennedy. “And Bobby left 
me holding the bag,” he added bitterly. 

The real inspiration for the unappetizing attack on 
Humphrey’s patriotism was obviously Jack Kennedy, if 
we are to believe Ben Bradlee. Almost two years after he 
had bested the Minnesotan in the 1960 primaries, Bradlee 
noted in his diary, Kennedy’s mind was still on Hum- 
phrey’s war record, or lack of one. 

The West Virginia primary had been, as one Charleston 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 33 

newspaper described it, “one of the worst name-calling 
campaigns in the history of presidential politics.” And it 
ended amidst charges that the Kennedy forces had en- 
gaged in vote-buying on a massive scale. “One of the most 
corrupt elections in county history,” said another paper. 

Whereupon the FBI conducted an intensive investigation 
and filed a report of nearly 200 pages with the Justice De- 
partment. After Drew Pearson reported that an indict- 
ment of Bobby Kennedy was in the offiing, Jack Ken- 
nedy demanded to know whether the Eisenhower admin- 
istration intended to use the FBI as “a political weapon.” 
The matter was dropped when the administration decided 
against opening itself to accusations of political persecu- 
tion. JFK had shrewdly nipped a potential crisis in the 
bud. 

' “Dirty tricks” also played a role in the Wisconsin 
primary. As in West Virginia, the Kennedys had dragged 
out the hobgoblin of James Hoff a with which to scare 
the wits out of the rubes. Bobby, particularly, horrified 
audiences with the “news” that the Teamsters leader was 
prepared to spend “at least $2,000,000” to keep “my 
brother, the Senator” out of the White House. The im- 
plication, of course, was that Hoffa was in cahoots with 
Humphrey. 

The former mayor of Minneapolis could hardly contain 
his anger. “You’re looking at a man who has fought the 
rackets all his life,” roared Humphrey. “And I did so be- 
fore some of the people who are doing all the talking about 
rackets were dry behind the ears. Whoever is responsible 
deserves to have a spanking. And I said spanking because 
it applies to juveniles.” 

Sixteen years later Humphrey was still angry. Writing 
about the Kennedy campaign in the 1960 primaries, and 
its wholesale buying of votes in West Virginia, the Minne- 
sotan noted in his memoirs:* “As a professional politician, 
I was able to accept and indeed respect the efficacy of the 
Kennedy campaign. But underneath the beautiful exterior, 
there was an element of ruthlessness and toughness that I 
had trouble either accepting or forgetting.” 

Another of Bobby’s “dirty tricks” — one that kicked back 

*The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics (New York: 
Doubleday, 1976). 



34 



VICTOR LASKY 



in his face — concerned his planting a story that Jackie Rob- 
inson, the first Black to break into organized baseball, had 
joined Humphrey’s entourage only because he received a 
fat fee. 

As Robinson explained at the time, “When I inquired 
as to who had put out such a story, a Milwaukee news- 
papermen replied that Senator Kennedy’s brother, Robert, 
had told him personally that I had been paid to join 
Humphrey’s camp. I want to emphasize what I told that 
reporter: Whoever originated such a story is a liar.” 

Robert Kennedy did not respond. Months later during 
the fall campaign, however, he tried to have the last word. 
Appearing on the Barry Gray radio show in New York, 
he unloosed a sharp personal attack on Robinson, then 
supporting Nixon. He quoted extensively from a dossier 
which he said had been compiled by his investigators. 
Typical of the charges leveled by Bobby was the claim 
that Chock Full o* Nuts, which employed Robinson as per- 
sonnel director, was owned by a reactionary Republican. 

Robinson, listening at home, replied immediately. 
After noting that his employer was a registered member of 
the Liberal party, who had contributed to the Humphrey 
campaign, Robinson said: “If the younger Kennedy is go- 
ing to resort to lies, then I can see what kind of cam- 
paign this is going to be. I don’t see where my company 
has anything at all to do with his brother’s having had 
breakfast with the White Citizens’ Councils and the racist 
Governor of Alabama.” 

The significance of this episode is that, by his own ad- 
mission, Robert Kennedy had used investigators to dig up 
“dirt” on his brother’s opponents. Actually most of the in- 
telligence operations were supervised by the candidate’s 
father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was not adverse to the 
uses of political blackmail. “Going back to 1960,” wrote 
Professor John P. Roche many years later, “in both the 
primaries and the general election the late Joseph P. Ken- 
nedy had an intelligence network that put the FBI to 
shame.” 

But what is most interesting in retrospect is the fact that 
most liberals — and the media, for that matter — couldn’t 
have cared less. Yet during the Nixon years they raised 
bloody Cain when it was disclosed that the Nixon White 
House had used a private investigator named Anthony 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 35 

Ulasewicz to check into such incidents as Ted Kennedy’s 
peculiar conduct at Chappaquiddick. And no publication 
was more outraged about this delving into the private lives 
of the celebrated than the Washington Post. Beginning in 
1976, however, the Post began publishing a series of ex- 
clusives about the sexual habits of certain members of Con- 
gress including, of course, the then powerful Wayne Hays 
of Ohio. Hays, who incidentally was strong for the im- 
peachment of Nixon, was caught in a compromising situa- 
tion by two young reporters assigned by Bradlee. The re- 
sulting scandal led to Hays’s eventual retirement from 
Congress. 

But probably the “dirtiest trick” of all in 1960 was the 
manner in which the Kennedys manipulated the “religious 
issue” for their political benefit. In effect the Kennedys 
used anti-Catholicism to win votes. In the closing days 
of the Wisconsin primary, for example, vicious anti- 
Catholic pamphlets were circulated widely throughout cer- 
tain areas of the state. They were mailed in the many 
thousands to Catholic homes and, as Marquis Childs re- 
ported at the time, “often to individuals in care of the 
local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. While they seem 
to have originated with the lunatic fringe, the effect is 
naturally to create sympathy for Kennedy. . . .^And this 
may well be true not only among Kennedy’s fellow 
Catholics in Wisconsin but among others who have all 
along felt the injustice of discriminating against a candidate 
for the Presidency because of his religion.” 

Poor Humphrey and his aides knew immediately that 
some Machiavellian force was giving them the business. 
They believed that the mailings constituted a deceitful ex- 
ercise in reverse psychology aimed at enraging Catholic 
voters against Humphrey. 

And they were right. 

The Humphrey organization publicly demanded that the 
U.S. Postal System trace the source of the literature. But 
that was not to be. Only later was it determined who had 
unloosed the bigoted material. It turned out that the source 
was none other than one of Bobby’s hatchet men, a 
mysterious figure named Paul Corbin, whose exotic back- 
ground consisted of a former membership in the Com- 
munist party and later an outspoken admiration for Senator 
Joe McCarthy. 



36 VICTOR LASKY 

As National Review later reported: “Corbin was in- 
volved in an anonymous mailing of virulently anti-Catholic 
literature to Catholics from a mail drop across the line in 
Minnesota, with such success that many of them, with a 
sort of negative Pavlovian reflex, voted for Kennedy.” 

It is significant that only National Review came up with 
this extraordinary story. None of the big Establishment 
newspapers, which were to have a field day exposing po- 
litical chicanery during the Nixon years, seemed to be in- 
terested. And yet the exploits of Corbin were far more 
detrimental to the opposition than the later pranks of 
Donald Segretti, which in the main were more childish than 
serious. Needless to say, Segretti served time in the slam- 
mer while Corbin — at the Kennedys’ suggestion — was 
named an assistant to the Democratic National Chairman 
and later placed on the payroll of the Joseph P. Ken- 
nedy, Jr., Foundation. 

Corbin’s activities in Wisconsin had the desired effect 
Among other things Catholic Republicans by the many 
thousands crossed over party lines to register their protest 
against the “hate” literature flooding the state. This cross- 
over was analyzed in detail over the CBS Television net- 
work by pollster Elmo Roper. John Kennedy, according 
to his chief aide Theodore Sorensen, “was so angry at 
Roper’s telecast that he wrote a letter of protest to the 
network.” 

Actually Kennedy did more than just write. According to 
David Wise’s carefully researched book, The Politics of 
Lying * the candidate personally telephoned CBS President 
Frank Stanton. 

“Jack called from the airport in Fort Wayne,” Stanton 
was quoted. “His voice was very strident. He objected to 
the CBS analysis of the primary vote in Wisconsin and said 
that we had raised the religious issue.” 

Stanton agreed, but he noted that it wasn’t “something 
we invented. The papers are commenting on the religious 
issue, too.” 

“But,” said Kennedy, “this is different. You’re licensed.” 

Stanton was further outraged, he told Wise, when he 
learned that Kennedy had told a CBS correspondent, “Wait 
till I’m President — I’ll cut Stanton’s balls off.” 



(New York: Random House, 1973). 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 37 

The candidate’s brother, Bobby, had been particularly in- 
censed by the reporting of one CBS correspondent. The 
correspondent had reported from Wisconsin that the Cath- 
olic vote in that state was being taken for granted by the 
Kennedy forces. When this came to Bobby’s attention, he 
went into an uncontrollable rage, sought out the correspon- 
dent, and denounced him as a “Stevenson Jew.” 

Only Jack Kennedy’s quick intervention prevented the 
story of Bobby’s use of an ethnic slur from hitting the 
nation’s front pages. He got Bobby to apologize to the cor- 
respondent. One of the newsmen who had witnessed the 
imbroglio was William Lawrence of The New York Times . 
A good friend of the Kennedys, Lawrence did not file 
anything on it. Other politicians probably would not have 
been as fortunate. 

But not all of the dirty tricks were committed by the 
Kennedy forces. Kennedy himself was a victim. One of the 
dirtiest and most decidedly illegal tricks was the bur- 
glaries of the Manhattan offices of physicians who had 
been treating the youthful candidate. The break-ins oc- 
curred prior to the 1960 Democratic National Conven- 
tion. Many years later one of the physicians, Dr. Eugene 
J. Cohen, observed, “It was all done in a style similar to 
the burglary of the offices of Ellsberg’s doctor.” 

Dr. Cohen also said it was obvious that the burglars 
were after the Kennedy files. 

That same weekend there was another break-in at the 
offices of Dr. Janet G. Travell, who had been treating 
Kennedy’s bad back. As Dr. Cohen noted, “It didn’t take 
[the police] long to put two and two together. They asked 
who our patients were and when both of us came up with 
Kennedy, it was obvious what it was all about.” 

In recalling the two burglaries, The New York Times 
noted on May 4, 1973: “Mr. Kennedy’s health had been an 
issue before and during the 1960 campaign with his Dem- 
ocratic opponents circulating reports that he suffered from 
Addison’s disease.” 

Actually rumors about Kennedy’s health had been cir- 
culating for many years. In 1954, for example. Time dis- 
closed that the senator had Addison’s Disease, an incurable 
but controllable deficiency of adrenal secretions. Five 
years later Fletcher Knebel reported in the Des Moines 
Register that a “whispering campaign aimed at discredit- 



38 



VICTOR LASKY 



ing Senator Kennedy as a Presidential candidate has gained 
increasing momentum in recent weeks. The whisperers have 
been stating as a fact that Kennedy has Addison’s disease. 
So virulent is the power of gossip that even Governor 
Edmund G. [Pat] Brown of California was impelled to ask 
Kennedy personally about it. In an interview Kennedy 
said there is no basis to the rumor. He said he has tried 
in vain to learn the source.” 

According to his biographer, James MacGregor Bums, 
JFK had an “adrenal insufficiency” which some doctors 
could conceivably diagnose “as a mild case of Addison’s 
Disease.” 

But exactly what information was obtained during the 
break-ins at the doctors’ offices and exactly how that in- 
formation was used, if indeed it was, was never established. 
Outside of a routine police investigation no one really 
probed in depth. If the Kennedy people were alarmed, 
they did not show it publicly. Perhaps it was because that 
was the sort of thing one simply expected in politics. And 
no one knew that better than John Kennedy and his as- 
sociates, to whom “information” about the opposition was 
a way of life. 

Ironically it was Kennedy who brought the issue of 
health to the fore. Just prior to the Democratic Conven- 
tion he declared that the presidency demanded “the 
strength and health and vigor of young men.” This im- 
mediately was interpreted as a slap at his rival for the 
nomination, Lyndon Johnson, who had suffered a massive 
heart attack five years earlier. 

Some weeks before, a rumor had swept the Texas Dem- 
ocratic Convention about LBJ’s having suffered another 
heart attack. Johnson said he had reason to believe the 
rumor had been launched by the Kennedy camp and was 
designed to make his health a major issue at the national 
convention. “It was that little bastard Bobby,” LBJ told 
intimates. 

The Johnson camp soon retaliated. At a press con- 
ference John Connally, then a Fort Worth lawyer, an- 
nounced that the rumors about Jack Kennedy were true — 
namely, that the young Bostonian suffered from Ad- 
dison’s Disease. And India Edwards chimed in with the 
observation that Kennedy was the only man “offering him- 
self for President who has been absent eight months in one 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 39 

year because of illness,” a reference to the senator’s ill- 
ness in 1954, when he underwent surgery for a spinal disc 
condition. She threw in the claim that because of Ad- 
dison’s Disease, Kennedy was completely dependent on 
cortisone. 

None of the reporters present asked where the Johnson 
people had obtained what after all was presumably con- 
fidential medical information. 

Johnson himself assured a group of reporters that he 
knew as a fact that Kennedy was so stricken with Ad- 
dison’s Disease that the young senator “looked like a 
spavined hunchback.” Kennedy wasn’t overly happy with 
the remark, but he let it pass. 

Twelve years later, during the 1972 campaign, burglars 
broke into the office of Nixon’s personal physician and 
looked at the President’s medical file. Dr. John Lungren, 
who had last examined Nixon in 1969, reported that rec- 
ords had been disturbed by intruders, who took nothing 
although cash was in plain view. 

“I don’t believe that any of the records were missing, 
but the papers were out of their chronological order and 
obviously scrutinized,” Lungren said. “There is the sup- 
position that they might have been photographed.” 

According to Lungren, the papers in the manila en- 
velope file dated back to Nixon’s days as Vice President 
and constituted “his complete medical record.” But he 
doubted whether the records could have been of any value 
to the burglars, since “every examination I’ve ever given 
him showed him to be in perfect health.” 

According to the Long Beach (Calif.) Independent - 
Press Telegram , which broke the story, sources within the 
FBI indicated the Bureau felt the documents had been 
either photographed or hand-copied. 

Apparently the burglars found nothing useful, for the 
issue of Nixon’s health never arose during the 1972 cam- 
paign. Which is not to imply that his Democratic op- 
ponent, George McGovern, may have had anything to do 
with the break-in. What appears more likely, according to 
FBI sources, is that members of one of those left-wing 
guerrilla groups so prolific in California may have engi- 
neered the caper on their own as part of their ceaseless 
campaign to “get” the man they hated most in public 
life. 



40 



VICTOR LASKY 



The story of the Lungren break-in received sparse atten- 
tion in the nation’s press and television networks when it 
finally broke in May of 1973. None of the big newspapers 
or networks, then pursuing Watergate with a vengeance, 
deigned to relegate any of their investigatory resources to 
solving the break-in. They had become far more interested 
in the burglary of the office of the psychiatrist who had 
treated Daniel J. Ellsberg, the man who had pilfered and 
publicized the Pentagon Papers. And the argument was 
that, even if the break-in was conceived as in the interests 
of national security, the end did not justify the illegal 
means. 

But the press failed to object to a transgression of its 
own when in September 1973 — at the very height of Water- 
gate — the New York Post reproduced medical records 
which had been stolen from the files of St. Luke’s Hos- 
pital. The records pertained to the illness of District At- 
torney Frank S. Hogan, who was then running for re- 
election. They indicated that Hogan was far more seriously 
ill than had been previously acknowledged. 

Nevertheless the documents had been stolen, and Robert 
Spitzler, managing editor of the Post , refused to discuss how 
or from whom his newspaper had obtained them. But he 
defended the publication of the material, saying, “It was 
incumbent on us to print the truth. Lies were told for a 
month. The overriding consideration was the public’s right 
to know.” 

The article provoked a protest from the New York 
County Medical Society’s Board of Censors, which over- 
sees medical ethics. The group questioned how a news- 
paper could have approved such a violation of the con- 
fidential doctor-patient relationship after it had so angrily 
criticized the attempted burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatric 
files. 

No one, incidentally, went to jail for the violation of 
Hogan’s civil rights. No one was even arrested for the 
crime. 



FOUR 



Adlai Stevenson, it must be recalled, was also in the race 
for the 1960 presidential nomination. His legions consisted 
largely of intellectuals, students, and folks with a penchant 
for joining such organizations as Americans for Democratic 
Action and the American Civil Liberties Union. In short 
Adlai still had the heart of much of what was liberal 
America. 

All of which was troubling to the Kennedy clan. For 
many liberals were still uncertain about Jack. They re- 
membered him as being equivocal, at best, about “Mc- 
Carthyism.” And they were outraged by the excesses at- 
tributed to both Jack’s father and brother. Adlai himself 
had been quoted as saying that “the amount of money be- 
ing spent” by the Kennedys “is phenomenal, probably the 
highest amount spent on a campaign in history.” Stevenson 
also described Kennedy as being “somewhat arrogant.” 

Stevenson’s forces were making their numbers felt in 
Los Angeles, where the Democratic Convention was being 
held. They were everywhere, buttonholing delegates, get- 
ting on television, and giving the impression that, somehow, 
Adlai would beat the odds and succeed in obtaining his 
third nomination for the presidency. 

Though the Kennedy forces felt they had the nomina- 
tion in the bag, they knew that anything could happen, 
particularly at a volatile convention. They feared a gang-up 
on the part of their three remaining rivals, Stevenson, 
Lyndon Johnson, and Stuart Symington. 

Stevenson’s headquarters were located in a soon-to-be- 
abandoned loft building on Pershing Square in downtown 
Los Angeles, across the park from the Biltmore Hotel. 
Security was virtually nil as people roamed at will through- 
out the five floors of the ramshackle edifice. Direct tele- 
phone lines connected the Stevenson people with their 



42 



VICTOR LASKY 



trailer truck parked outside Convention Hall at the Sports 
Arena. 

On July 12, 1960, The New York Times published this 
short dispatch: 

Los Angeles, July 11 (UPI) — A spokesman for the • 
Stevenson for President Campaign Committee said to- 
night that its telephone lines at the Democratic Na- 
tional Convention had been tapped. 

John Sharon said he was so informed by a security 
officer for the Democratic National Committee. 

He told reporters that the officer said that the 
Stevenson lines from inside the sports area to a 
trailer outside, and one from the trailer to hotel head- 
quarters, both had been tapped. 

Mr. Sharon would not speculate on who might have 
tapped the lines. 

But others working for Stevenson were not as reticent. 
They stated quite flatly that they suspected the wiretapping 
was the work of Kennedy “goons.” And during the con- 
vention proceedings themselves, as Ted White reported in 
The Making of the President 1960 , several Stevenson lead- 
ers stated “that the Kennedy walkie-talkies were power- 
ful and sensitive enough to monitor their own more primi- 
tive radio communications with the [convention] floor.” 

But who — to use the vernacular made popular by John 
Dean at a later date — had “screwed” whom back at the 
Democratic Convention? 

Apparently the Kennedys had been done a major injus- 
tice in the light of what has since been revealed. It turns 
out that they themselves were victimized by a “dirty trick” 
of monumental proportions. 

What occurred at the 1960 convention was a con job 
on the part of Adlai’s people which fooled many delegates 
and journalists, including me. 

And the man responsible for the con job was David 
Garth, a chubby-faced, cigar-smoking New Yorker who 
has since become more renowned as a media consultant 
for numerous Democratic candidates. 

Garth had joined the Stevenson team in early 1960, 
when he became chairman of a New York committee to 
draft Adlai for the nomination. At the convention itself 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 43 

Garth orchestrated a “spontaneous” series of demonstra- 
tions for Stevenson which, as The Village Voice later 
noted, “came surprisingly close to knocking John Ken- 
nedy out of the presidential box.” Whether Kennedy actual- 
ly was in that much danger can be argued. But few ob- 
servers at the scene can dispute the fact that Stevenson’s 
troops came mighty close to disrupting the proceedings. 
Among other things Adlai’s people had perfected the 
ancient political art of forging convention tickets in order 
to pack the galleries at the Sports Arena. 

Many years later in an interview with Jack Newfield 
published in New York , Dave Garth boasted about another 
caper he had pulled off in Los Angeles: 

“We had put a tap on the Kennedy phone lines into the 
Amphitheater. And then we put out a statement accusing 
the Kennedy people of putting a tap on the Stevenson 
phones. Bobby ran into me in a parking lot, and boy, was 
he angry.”* 

In telling of this choice piece of chutzpah , Garth voiced 
pride rather than guilt, according to Newfield. The inter- 
view took place in mid-1970, at a time when Watergate was 
still only the name of a plush apartment-office complex 
on the banks of the Potomac. In other words it was be- 
fore wiretapping in a political context had taken on more 
notorious connotations. 

The irony of ironies came less than a year after the 
Los Angeles convention, when Garth was named chairman 
of New York’s Fair Campaign Practices Committee, an or- 
ganization devoted to combatting “dirty tricks” in politics. 
Since then, as a political consultant, this self-confessed wire- 
tapper has represented such clients as Mayor John Lind- 
say, Senator Adlai Stevenson, Jr., of Illinois, Senator John 
Tunney of California, former Governor Jack Gilligan of 
Ohio, Governor Brendan Byrne of New Jersey, Mayor 
Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, Congressman Richard Ot- 
tinger of New York, and Governor Hugh Carey of New 
York. And, needless to say, all of these Democratic 
worthies — Garth represents mainly Democrats of the lib- 

*The Kennedy high command in order to discourage such efforts 
had announced that their elaborate communications setup was de- 
cidedly “spy-proof.” They were wrong. The Stevenson people were 
privy to their phone conversations. 



44 VICTOR LASKY 

eral persuasion — have commented with horror on the evils 
of Watergate. 

In the presidential race itself, the epic battle between 
Kennedy and Nixon, the Democratic candidate employed 
the same tactics that he had tried out against Humphrey 
in the primaries. There was a new wrinkle, however. This 
time Kennedy implied that Nixon, of all people, was some- 
how soft on communism. This was because Harry Bridges, 
the left-wing boss of West Coast longshoremen, had an- 
nounced he would vote Republican that year because, he 
claimed, JFK was a foe of labor. 

“It’s an interesting fact,” Kennedy trumpeted, “that 
neither the Teamsters Union nor the Longshoremen’s 
Union dominated by Mr. Bridges is supporting me in this 
campaign and that both unions are opposing me. ... I 
want to get the crooks and the Communists out of the 
union movement, like Mr. Bridges. ...” 

Thus the belated champion of liberalism made the point 
that Nixon was being supported by “crooks and Com- 
munists.” And no one in the media, which constantly is on 
the lookout for intemperate political remarks, seemed to 
care — or even notice. 

Like a broken record Kennedy kept coming back to 
Hoffa, contending among other things that the Justice De- 
partment had not “carried out the laws in the case of Mr. 
Hoffa with vigor.” Of course everyone knew that Justice 
was headed by one of Nixon’s oldest political friends, 
William P. Rogers. “In my judgment,” JFK added, “an 
effective Attorney General with the present laws on the 
books could remove Mr. Hoffa from office” — and presum- 
ably put him behind bars. (Years later during Nixon’s 
second try for the presidency, the Republican candidate 
also called for an “effective Attorney General,” contend- 
ing that Lyndon Johnson’s chief law officer Ramsey Clark 

was soft on crime.) . . . 

Following his primary victory in West Virginia, Jack 
Kennedy had stated that he believed “we have now buried 
the religiqus issue” once and for all. 

But it was a short burial. The issue was soon revived 
by the Kennedy forces. Even the liberal Commonweal 
wondered whether the issue wasn’t being kept alive by the 
Kennedys “to take advantage of the natural resentment 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 45 

many Catholics feel when the so-called religious issue is 
raised.” 

And once again vast amounts of anti-Catholic literature 
were flooding the country. Down in South Carolina the 
Greenville News noted that much of the bigoted material 
originated in the North. “The origin of this material makes 
us all the more curious as to just who is mainly responsible 
for its distribution. . . . The question is: Who is making 
the most use of the religious issue, and for or against 
whom?” 

It was a good question. Of course almost everyone in- 
cluding Nixon knew the answer. Try as he might, Nixon 
could not keep the issue out of the campaign. His op- 
ponent kept bringing it up. And there was no way to stop 
him. After all, it was one of the biggest things Kennedy 
had going for him. 

The outright cynicism implicit in keeping the issue alive 
was demonstrated when Bobby, as campaign manager, ac- 
cused the Republicans of spending over $1 million to dis- 
tribute anti-Catholic propaganda. Following the campaign, 
this allegation was checked out by the Fair Campaign 
Practices Committee, which found it to be without founda- 
tion. 

The religious ploy paid off. In the end a massive swing 
of Catholic voters to Kennedy was the biggest factor in his 
election. According to George Gallup, the Catholic vote for 
the Democrats leaped to 78 percent in 1960, a 27-point 
jump from 1956. Which was a major reason Kennedy took 
lopsided majorities in the big cities. 

“One thing is certain,” pollster Elmo Roper observed 
in the Saturday Review . “If there was a net victim of re- 
ligious prejudice it was Nixon more than Kennedy.” 

And Boston's Richard Cardinal Cushing, following the 
election, nominated Nixon as “Good Will Man of the 
Year,” explaining that “during the recent campaign which 
tested and taxed all his powers, physical and mental, he 
never exploited the religious or any other issue that 
would tend to divide the American people.” 

During the campaign Nixon had been the target of other 
low-level tactics. In Black districts in the North handbills 
and posters were distributed reproducing a racist co- 
venant in Nixon's deed to his Washington home. The 



46 



VICTOR LASKY 



covenant barred future sale of the property to any Negro 
or “Armenians, Jews, Hebrews and Syrians.” What was not 
mentioned was the fact that when Nixon purchased the 
house, such covenants had been outlawed by the Supreme 
Court for three years. At the same time Nixon was being 
pictured as “integrationist” in the South. There Democrats 
were circulating in white communities leaflets which dis- 
played the Vice President in friendly poses with Black 
people. The caption read: “Vice President Richard M. 
Nixon has been an NAACP member for over ten years!” 

There had been one major effort to link the Republican 
party with . a group of Protestant clergymen who were 
seriously concerned about whether a Catholic President 
could resist pressures from the Pope. Whether wiretaping 
was involved in this effort, as alleged by one of the sup- 
posed participants, is a big question that has yet to be 
resolved. What is now known, however, is that the Ken- 
nedy forces authorized acts of surveillance and espionage 
aimed at the clergymen, including a former Republican 
congressman. 

The central figure in all of this was Carmine Bellino, a 
former FBI specialist in accounting with close ties to the 
Kennedy family. In 1947 following thirteen years of gov- 
ernment service, Bellino shared an office with Robert A. 
Maheu in Washington. The rent was paid in part by the 
Central Intelligence Agency, so that — as Maheu was to tes- 
tify many years later — “I would be available to them as 
situations arose.”* The testimony was given in Los Angeles 
in connection with Maheu’s $17.3 million defamation suit 
against Howard Hughes, for whom he had once worked. 

Whether Bellino did any work for the CIA in this period 
was not disclosed at the trial. But he did have wide ex- 
perience in congressional investigations. Bellino had worked 
for the Senate Select Committee investigating labor racke- 

*One of those “situations/* as it turned out, led to Maheu’s hiring of 
Mafia leaders Roselli and Giancana in the CIA plot to assassinate 
Castro. Prior to that the CIA enlisted Maheu to arrange the pro- 
duction of "a pornographic film purporting to show Indonesian 
President Sukarno engaging in sexual relations with a woman in 
Moscow. The object of the bogus film was to arouse Sukarno’s anger 
against the Soviet government by arranging for its circulation in 
Indonesia, presumably under Soviet auspices. However the film was 
never shown as planned. 



IT didn’t START WITH WATERGATE 47 

teering when Robert Kennedy was its chief counsel. And 
Bobby described Bellino as “the best investigator in 
America.” 

Later Bellino worked for Bobby, when he managed his 
brother’s presidential campaign. He carried out various 
intelligence assignments, utilizing the services of former 
FBI and CIA agents as well as private investigators. Bellino 
reported directly to Bobby. 

Among those who worked for Bellino were John W. 
Leon, a Washington private eye; Edward Murray Jones, a 
former congressional investigator; Oliver W. Angelone, a 
former FBI agent; and John Joseph Frank, a former FBI 
and CIA agent During the campaign Joseph Shimon, 
then an inspector in the Washington Police Department, 
had been requested to cooperate in a plan which, accord- 
ing to his sworn affidavit, involved the installation of 
eavesdropping devices in hotel rooms occupied by Republi- 
cans. 

In 1962 Leon, Angelone, Frank, and Shimon were in- 
dicted in a wiretaping case in which a lawyer for the El 
Paso Natural Gas Company, in Washington for a Federal 
Power Commission hearing, found an electronic bug under 
a coffee table in his suite at the Mayflower Hotel. All four 
were later convicted. 

But no one at the time of the “Mayflower Case,” as it 
was then billed in the press, linked the defendants to 
Bellino, for whom they had carried out assignments dur- 
ing the 1960 campaign. The main reason, of course, was 
that they had been working under cover for the Kennedy 
campaign and few knew of the relationship. Disclosure of 
the Bellino connection could have been dreadfully em- 
barrassing, for by this time Bellino was serving as a special 
White House consultant handling sensitive behind-the- 
scenes investigations for the new President. Among other 
things he was asked by both Kennedys to check into their 
wives* excessive spending habits to determine whether 
someone wasn’t stealing them blind. 

But mostly Bellino’s activities resembled those of the 
White House “plumbers” of the Nixon era. Years later it 
was disclosed that, at President Kennedy’s personal direc- 
tion, Bellino had obtained from the Internal Revenue 
Service the tax returns of numerous citizens. Exactly what 
was done with this supposedly confidential data can only 



48 VICTOR LASKY 

be surmised. What is known is that Kennedy often de- 
lighted in telling friends just how much — or how little — 
billionaires like John Paul Getty and H. L. Hunt were 
paying in federal taxes. Needless to say, this was informa- 
tion Which not even a President was entitled to know. 

Bellino maintained his intimate connections with the 
Kennedy family after the President’s death. Having been 
let go by the Johnson White House, he turned up as chief 
investigator for the Senate Subcommittee on Practices and 
Procedures, chaired by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In 
1973 he was named chief investigator for the Select Senate 
Watergate Committee, headed by Sam Ervin. For Bellino 
it was like old times — once again he was going after 
Nixon. And then all hell broke loose. 

On July 24, 1973, during the Watergate hearings, Re- 
publican National Chairman George Bush released three 
sworn affidavits suggesting that Bellino had recruited spies 
to help defeat Nixon in the 1960 presidential campaign. 

Bellino flatly denied the charges. 

One of the affidavits was signed by John Leon, who 
claimed he had been retained by Bellino in 1960 to “in- 
filtrate the operations” of Albert B. (“Ab”) Hermann, a 
longtime employee of the Republican National Committee. 
After failing to “penetrate the office operations” of the 
national committee, Leon swore that he was instructed by 
Bellino to place Hermann “under physical surveillance.” 
He said he had watched Hermann’s office with field glasses 
and used “an electric device known as ‘the big ear’ aimed 
at Mr. Hermann’s window.” 

Among those who assisted him in the surveillance “on 
two or three nights each” were John Frank and Eddie 
Jones. The Leon affidavit also said that Jones had described 
himself as “the world’s greatest wiretapper,” Jones boasting 
that under Bellino’s supervision he had successfully tapped 
James Hoffa’s telephones in Tampa, Florida. 

“During long conversations with me,” Leon went on, 
“Ed Jones stated that he had tapped the telephones of 
three ministers in the Mayflower Hotel in the fall of 1960. 
According to Jones, Carmine Bellino suspected that these 
ministers were responsible for some of the anti-Catholic, 
anti-Kennedy literature that was distributed during the 
1960 campaign. Ed Jones told me he could not spend 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 49 

much time with me on surveillance because he had several 
good wiretaps going for Bellino.” 

Leon also said that following one of the televised 1960 
debates between Kennedy and Nixon, he had a discussion 
with John Frank, Oliver Angelone, and another investigator 
whose name he could not recall. “There was agreement that 
Mr. Kennedy was extremely well prepared for points raised 
by Mr. Nixon — that he ‘had the debate all wrapped up.’ 
Angelone remarked ‘Jonesy really did his job well this 
time.’ ” 

The Leon affidavit added: “Although I did not partici- 
pate in installation of eavesdropping devices and did not 
tap telephone lines for Carmine Bellino during the 1960 
campaign, I am confident that Ed Jones and Oliver An- 
gelone successfully bugged the Nixon space or tapped his 
phones prior to the television debate.” 

But Jones denied he had ever engaged in bugging or 
wiretapping “against Republican party officials.” In a sworn 
affidavit, however, he did concede that while working for 
Bellino he had participated “in two surveillance efforts prior 
to the 1960 presidential election. Although I could not 
identify the subjects of these surveillances, I assume they 
were Republican officials or supporters. Two or three teams 
and cars were used in the surveillance and other members 
of the team had the responsibility of identification of the 
subject. I recall that Bellino was present on one or both 
surveillances.” 

According to Jones, “one of the surveillances was at Na- 
tional Airport, where we attempted to pick up an individual 
coming to Washington. The other surveillance effort in- 
volved an individual with offices in the vicinity of 19th and 
M Streets; N.W., Washington, D.C.” 

The third affidavit released by George Bush was signed 
by Joseph Shimon, a retired Washington police inspector, 
who claimed that during the 1960 campaign he had been 
approached by Oliver Angelone to help him gain access 
to the top two floors of the Wardman Park Hotel (now the 
Sheraton Park) that Nixon planned to occupy, for the 
purpose of installing eavesdropping devices. At the time 
Angelone explained he was working for Bellino. But 
Shimon declined the offer because, as he explained, “I did 
not desire to jeopardize my status in the Metropolitan 



50 



VICTOR LASKY 



Police Department.” (Later Shimon became a defendant 
in the “Mayflower Case.”) 

Angelone, whose conviction in the Mayflower Case was 
reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals on grounds he had 
been granted immunity for testifying before a grand jury, 
denied he ever appealed to Shimon for any such help. But 
he conceded that in the course of the 1960 campaign 
Bellino had asked him to try to find out at what hotel a 
certain individual, whose name he could not remember, 
was staying. It was possible, he said, that he might have 
asked Shimon to assist him in getting the registration card 
of this person. Angelone’s recollection was that the individ- 
ual in whom Bellino was interested had registered at the 
Wardman Park. 

Bellino, the center of the controversy, came out fight- 
ing. He accused Bush of seeking “to distract me from 
carrying out what I consider one of the most important 
assignments of my life.” 

In a later statement he denied any partisan motives in his 
activities as chief investigator of the Watergate Committee. 
He claimed that he had even campaigned for Nixon when 
he ran for Vice President in 1952. 

But Bellino’s “nonpartisanship” was called into question 
when it was disclosed that he had paid for a full-page 
advertisement in the Elizabeth, New Jersey, Daily Journal 
of October 29, 1968, which attacked Nixon for allegedly 
accepting Hoffa’s support in 1960. The ad urged readers 
to vote for Humphrey and Muskie. The truth is that, what- 
ever his feeling toward Nixon may have been back in the 
early fifties, Bellino’s dislike of the Republican candidate 
in later years was most intense. This may have been the 
result of his long and intimate relationship with the Ken- 
nedys. 

Nevertheless Bellino flatly and unequivocally denied 
ever having asked Leon or anyone else to undertake any 
wiretapping or electronic surveillance at any time. 

But he did admit complicity in the physical surveillance 
of certain individuals. His purpose was to determine the 
source of certain literature believed to be anti-Catholic. 
He did remember sending his two sons along with some- 
one, possibly Jones, out to National Airport to tail a former 
congressman named O. K. Armstrong who, Bellino had 
learned, would be arriving on a certain flight. How he ob- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 51 

tained this information he did not say. But he did say that 
he had been asked by Bobby Kennedy to determine 
whether Armstrong, a member of the editorial staff of the 
Reader's Digest, would make contact with other Repub- 
licans while in Washington. 

Jones and the two Bellino boys lost the former congress- 
man at the airport. Somehow Bellino learned that Arm- 
strong was going to attend a meeting of Protestant ministers 
at the Mayflower Hotel, at which the chief speaker was to 
be the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. “In this connec- 
tion,” said Bellino, “I was in the lobby observing those en- 
tering to determine whether anyone of interest was par- 
ticipating.” Bellino added that he may have reported to 
Bobby Kennedy on what he saw. But he denied Leon’s al- 
legation that several of the clergymen’s rooms had been 
wiretapped at his behest. 

Bellino said that, in line with Bobby Kennedy’s request, 
he was attempting to determine whether Armstrong was 
going to meet with Republican leaders while in Washing- 
ton. As it happened, after the Mayflower meeting was 
over, Armstrong did confer with “Ab” Hermann about 
prospective speaking engagements. 

Bellino could not recall whether he ever asked John 
Leon to do any work for him during the 1960 campaign. 
But he was quite certain that he had never authorized 
any surveillance of Hermann at that time, as contended by 
Leon. 

Bellino did concede knowing Leon, but in another con- 
nection. He said that Leon’s firm. Allied Investigating 
Services, had done some work for his firm in the fifties. 
And Bellino had also known Eddie Jones. This was when 
Bobby Kennedy hired Jones as an investigator for the 
Senate Rackets Committee. At the time, Bellino recalled, 
the hiring caused a “bit of a flap” because Jones had been 
indicted in New York in the late forties in a wiretapping 
case. Nevertheless Bellino used Jones in Detroit in connec- 
tion with the investigation of Hoffa and other Teamster 
leaders. 

As for Angelone, Bellino said, all that former FBI agent 
did for him during the campaign was to locate a hotel reg- 
istration card, presumably that of O. K. Armstrong. 

Needless to say, Armstrong was absolutely flabbergasted 
many years later when he learned that he had been the 



52 



VICTOR LASKY 



subject of a surveillance directed by Bellino. He did recall, 
however, flying to Washington to attend a private meeting 
of clergymen and laymen pledged to support Nixon. The 
meeting, which was held at the Mayflower Hotel, was ad- 
dressed by Peale and others. 

“At the close of one of the afternoon speeches,” Arm- 
strong recalled, “someone on the stage drew back the cur- 
tain, and discovered a man sitting on the floor, with a tape 
recorder in his hands. Apparently he had recorded every 
word said at the meeting, for the media next day had 
verbatim reports of Dr. Peale’s speech and of my re- 
marks. . . .” 

“I have discussed this with Mr. Bellino,” Armstrong 
went on, “and he could not recall who selected my name 
for shadowing, who was at the airport and why, except 
that ‘wewanted to find out what the Republicans were do- 
ing.* His memory was also faulty as to why Dr. Peale 
was shadowed, and as to who obtained a copy of Peale’s 
speech the day before it was delivered.” 

There was no way for anyone to have obtained an ad- 
vance copy of the Peale speech, according to Armstrong. 
As he wrote to a Senate investigator, “There was no copy, 
or manuscript, of Dr. Peale’s speech.” The fact was that 
“he spoke extemporaneously. . . . The quotes in the papers 
next day were from the tape recordings made by the man 
hidden behind the curtain of the meeting room — planted, 
likely, by Bellino himself. Bellino *s statement that they had 
a copy of Dr. Peale’s speech is completely false.” 

Also false, according to Armstrong, was the interpreta- 
tion that the quotes released to the press without Dr. 
Peale’s permission were anti-Catholic. The well-played 
story that one of Nixon’s most prominent religious sup- 
porters was a “bigot” did enormous damage to the Repub- 
lican cause. According to Armstrong, the entire Bellino 
caper was a prime example of a “dirty trick.” 

Following the publication of the Bush charges against 
Bellino, Chairman Ervin appointed a subcommittee to look 
into them. He named as its head Herman Talmadge, Dem- 
ocrat of Georgia, and as other members Daniel K. Inouye, 
Democrat of Hawaii, and Edward Gurney, Republican of 
Florida. 

For the most part the subcommittee conducted its inves- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 53 

tigation of Bellino in half-hearted fashion. It was a chore 
that had to be done and it was done as quickly as possible. 

Unfortunately there was no way to interrogate the prin- 
cipal witness against Bellino. For John Leon had died just 
days before Bush made public his signed affidavit. 

Nevertheless the inquiry produced some interesting side- 
lights. One was a letter to Leon from Robert Kennedy 
dated November 17, 1960: 

I have been advised of the help which you ex- 
tended in Senator Kennedy’s campaign. I just want you 
to know how much I appreciate your interest and 
efforts in my brother’s behalf. 

Thank you again, and I hope I will have a chance 
to see you in the near future. 

Apparently the Kennedys relied on Leon for another in- 
vestigative service. In a letter to his Washington attorney 
Arthur G. Lambert, dated October 5, 1967, Leon wrote 
that he had been asked on July 6, 1961, by James M. Mc- 
Inerney, an attorney representing both President Kennedy 
and his brother, 

to run a Polygraph [lie-detector] examination on a 
personal friend of Bobby Kennedy, Paul Corbin. Mr. 
Corbin was slated for a high position in the Kennedy 
Administration, and the FBI had come up with in- 
formation that associated him with the Communist 
party. 

This was a very unusual request, coming from the 
Attorney General, asking me to clear a man that his 
own FBI had indicated was a member of the Com- 
munist party. I made a very careful examination of 
the man, and forwarded a report on my tests, which 
clearly were to some extent in contradiction to FBI 
reports. 

The Leon letter also recited much of the material con- 
tained in his later affidavit. Though he made no reference 
to Bellino, he wrote of his surveillance of Hermann and 
of Ed Jones’s statement to him that he was tapping the 
telephones of clergymen at the Mayflower. In addition, 



54 VICTOR LASKY 

according to the letter, Leon and Frank had “confided” 
that they had been “recruited for the campaign of the late 
President Kennedy to ‘black bag’ some hotel rooms in the 
Mayflower Hotel,” tasks “they had performed gratuitous- 
ly.”* 

Some of these statements had turned up as early as De- 
cember 21, 1965, when John Leon was interviewed by 
Bernard Fensterwald, then chief counsel to a Senate Sub- 
committee looking into wiretapping. Based on the notes 
he took at the interview, Fensterwald did recall that Leon 
may have told him that Bellino had asked Leon to do po- 
litical surveillance; that Leon said he would do physical 
surveillance but could not handle electronic work; and that 
it was Jones who undertook the electronic work. However 
this information was not brought out at the opening hear- 
ings because, said Fensterwald, Chairman Edward V. Long 
of Missouri thought the thrust of his investigation should 
be concentrated more on industrial and marital bugging 
than on political. A more likely reason was that Long did 
not want to tangle with a fellow Democratic senator, Rob- 
ert F. Kennedy of New York. 

Among the handwritten notes made by Fensterwald dur- 
ing his interview with Leon was this reference: “Jones was 
supposed to get a job when RFK gets in.” The record 
shows that, following JFK’s election in 1960, Jones was 
employed as an investigator by the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service. After 1967 he was assigned to the 
Philippines. Also working for the government is Angelone. 
Since 1964 he has been an investigative officer in the 
New York offices of the General Services Administration. 

At the very least it was firmly established by even the 
desultory investigation conducted by the Talmadge sub- 
committee that Bellino had initiated and even participated 
in the surveillance of political opponents. Normally it 
would be assumed that such a belated disclosure would 

•“Black-bagging” is the vernacular for illegal break-ins and bur- 
glaries committed by law enforcement agencies. The FBI, for exam- 
ple, had special teams trained and equipped for such assignments. 
Usually “black bag jobs” were performed to obtain diplomatic 
materials such as codebooks at foreign embassies or in underworld 
haunts. Another target has been radical groups of all sorts. The 
Trotskyite Socialist Workers party, along with the Ku Klux Klan, 
were repeatedly victimized by FBI break-ins, as were Arab groups 
suspected of harboring anti-Jewish terrorists. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 55 

have horrified the members of a Senate committee looking 
into such political excesses. 

Instead the chairman of the Watergate Committee, the 
sainted Sam Ervin, fully exonerated Bellino and described 
him as “a faithful public servant of exemplary character.” 



FIVE 



Probably the ultimate “dirty trick” — far more conse- 
quential than anything that was said to have occurred in 
Watergate — was the theft of the 1960 election. For this 
was an outright repudiation of the will of the American 
people. 

During that long election night in November 1960 when 
the final votes cast by more than 69 million Americans 
(then the largest turnout in U.S. history) were being 
counted, the identity of the victor was uncertain. Finally 
everything appeared to hang on Illinois. According to Ben 
Bradlee, Jack Kennedy placed a call to Richard Daley. 
And it was from the lips of the Chicago mayor that 
Kennedy for the first time heard those rapturous words, 
“Mr. President.” 

“Mr. President,” Daley told Kennedy, “with a little bit 
of luck and the help of a few close friends, you’re going 
to carry Illinois.” 

And that is how Kennedy knew he had it made. He 
could now retire after a long, exasperating night fully 
aware that “Der Mare,” whom he and his family had 
cultivated for many years, would come through for him — 
as he most decidedly did. Though Bradlee had “often won- 
dered about (Daley’s) statement,” the Washington Post 
executive didn’t think it mattered too much since someone 
had once told him that the Republicans “could well have 
stolen as many votes in Southern Illinois as Daley might 
have stolen in Cook County.” In other words, to quote the 
phrase made popular during Watergate, everybody does it. 
Years later, however, Nixon’s associates were to go to jail 
for political crimes. Kennedy’s kept getting reelected mayor 
of Chicago. 

“That the Daley-controlled wards in Chicago supplied 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 57 

the 10,000 votes to put over the Kennedy- Johnson ticket 
can hardly be questioned,” conceded the pro-Kennedy col- 
umnist Marquis Childs thirteen years later. And he felt 
that^in hindsight it might have been better (for Nixon) 
to have faced up to the frauds of 1960.” But there is noth- 
ing in the record to indicate that Childs himself suggested 
any such thing at the time of Kennedy’s razor-thin victory 
over Nixon. In fact had Nixon contested the election, as 
he was then being strongly urged to do, he undoubtedly 
would have been bitterly assailed by liberals like Childs as 
a sore loser and much worse. 

Even Ted White has been forced to admit that perhaps 
enough votes were stolen in Texas and Illinois to have 
won the presidency for Kennedy. In his new book Breach 
of Faith* which is about Nixon’s downfall, he states: 
“Democratic vote-stealing had definitely taken place on 
a massive scale in Illinois and Texas (where 100,000 big- 
city votes were simply disqualified); and on a lesser scale 
elsewhere.” 

Whether Kennedy himself was directly involved in any 
of the electoral skulduggery that produced his slim victory 
has never been established. What has been established, 
however, is that not only was he aware of what was going 
on but he approved of it. Talk about impeachable offenses! 

That there was skulduggery aplenty is clear from the 
record. An avalanche of Democratic votes in Cook County, 
held back until they were needed, allowed Kennedy to off- 
set losses downstate and win a ballot-thin 8,585-vote 
plurality in Illinois. Daley’s powerful machine employed 
virtually every big-city trick to bolster the vote. These in- 
cluded the usual spoiling of Republican ballots; the voting 
of floaters and tombstones; and the tallying of “votes” of 
those who had once lived on streets bulldozed out of 
existence by urban renewal. 

Until recently it was Daley who was' given the major 
credit (or blame) for having helped Kennedy swing the 
election. But now it develops that Mafia chief Sam “Momo” 
Giancana may also have played a decisive role. Giancana, 
who had awesome political power in Chicago and its en- 
virons, had often boasted to Judith Campbell, the young 



(New York: Atheneum, 1975). 



58 



VICTOR LASKY 



lady whose charms he had shared with Kennedy, that he 
used that power to elect Kennedy. “Listen, honey/’ he 
told Judith, “if it wasn’t for me, your boyfriend wouldn’t 
even be in the White House.” All of which puzzled the 
young lady in question, since as she later chronicled, her 
Mafia friend was always knocking the Kennedy family. 
Among other things Giancana, who ought to have known, 
described Joseph P. Kennedy as “one of the biggest crooks 
who ever lived.” Yet for some reason Giancana gave or- 
ders to the “boys” to assure Kennedy’s victory over Nixon. 
Which may be one of the reasons why, despite some FBI 
harassment, the strong-arm man led a somewhat charmed 
life during the Kennedy years. Another reason, of course, 
was his involvement with the CIA in the Kennedy-en- 
dorsed plot to “snuff” Castro. 

Without exception Chicago’s newspapers took the posi- 
tion that, as the Tribune then put it, “the election of No- 
vember 8 [1960] was characterized by such gross and 
palpable fraud as to justify the conclusion that (Nixon) 
was deprived of victory.” 

Vote frauds in behalf of the Democratic ticket were 
performed on an even grander -scale in Texas, where 
Lyndon Johnson — JFK’s runningmate — ruled the roost. 
Every phase of the state’s election machinery from precinct 
tally clerk to the State Board of Canvassers was in the 
hands of Organization (read LBJ) Democrats. So, con- 
sidering the long, traditional history of vote-stealing in the 
Lone Star State, what happened in 1960 was not too sur- 
prising. The stuffing of ballot boxes reached a new high; 
dozens of election machines in Republican precincts 
jammed mysteriously; and tens of thousands of ballots dis- 
appeared overnight. According to an eye-opening series of 
articles published in the New York Herald-Tribune , a 
minimum of 100,000 votes tallied for the Kennedy-John- 
son ticket never existed in the first place. Yet despite all 
this the ticket finally carried Texas by a slim margin of 
46,000 votes. 

Look magazine ran an article entitled “How to Steal an 
Election,” which annoyed Kennedy. And no wonder. For 
it said: “For the first time, many thousands of Americans 
suddenly realized that elections can be stolen. They only 
half-believed it before I960, as part of our historical 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 59 

lore. . . . Many, many thousands of voters and civic minded 
people in several leading states no longer take the easy- 
going attitude toward election frauds.” 

And in a foreword to Neal R. Pierce’s The People’s 
President, published in 1968, New York Times columnist 
Tom Wicker observed: 

A shift of only 4,480 popular votes from Kennedy 
to Nixon in Illinois, where there were highly plausible 
charges of fraud [emphasis added] and 4,491 in 
Missouri would have given neither man an electoral 
majority and thrown the decision into the House of 
Representatives. If an additional 1,148 votes had been 
counted for Nixon in New Mexico, 58 from Hawaii, 
and 1,247 in Nevada, he would have won an out- 
right majority in the electoral college. 

Wicker added: “Any experienced reporter or politician 
knows that the few votes can easily be ‘swung’ in any 
state by fraud or honest error.” 

That the 1960 election results were more the product of 
fraud than honest error was the position taken by J. Edgar 
Hoover. And the FBI director made no bones about say- 
ing so to such close friends as Philip Hochstein, then editor 
of the Newark (NJ.) Star-Ledger. 

Hochstein happened to be visiting Hoover the day after 
President-elect Kennedy had announced Hoover’s reap- 
pointment. As Hochstein recalled, Hoover was not too 
happy. When the editor offered him congratulations on be- 
ing reappointed, Hoover launched into a denunciation of 
“election frauds” and exclaimed that, as far as he was 
concerned, Kennedy “is not the President-elect.” Then 
Hoover complained that he had not been “permitted” to 
investigate the election frauds which had led to the theft 
of the election from Nixon. 

Hochstein asked who was preventing him from launching 
such a full-scale probe, and Hoover replied: “Ike and 
Nixon.” 

Between themselves President Eisenhower and Vice 
President Nixon had decided that, despite the closeness of 
the election and the obvious irregularities that had oc- 
curred, the nation’s welfare at a time of great troubles 



60 



VICTOR LASKY 



abroad demanded that a new President be inaugurated 
without a controversy that would divide the country. 

That this was the case can be seen from what hap- 
pened after the New York Herald-Tribune began publishing 
a series of articles which contended that the election had 
indeed been “stolen.” The articles were written by Earl 
Mazo, who reported the mechanics of the gigantic rip-off 
after first-hand investigations in Illinois and Texas. Twelve 
pieces in all were scheduled for publication. After four of 
them appeared, Nixon — then serving in his final weeks as 
Vice President — asked Mazo to come over to see him. 

Mazo, of course, had been aware that Nixon was being 
besieged by outraged Republicans to contest the election. 
He also knew that Nixon’s office was being inundated with 
great amounts of new evidence concerning “irregularities” 
in several states. Mazo therefore expected the Vice Presi- 
dent to tell him that he had decided to contest the election, 
as well as ask for a federally supervised probe of the chica- 
nery that had cost him the election. 

But that was not what Nixon had in mind. Much to 
Mazo’s amazement the Vice President asked the correspon- 
dent if it were possible for the Herald-Tribune to cease 
publishing the articles. Since he felt the conversation was of 
high historical import, Mazo put down all the details in a 
memorandum for his personal files as soon as he returned 
to his office. 

In his memorandum, Mazo noted: 

Right off, as we shook hands, Nixon said, “Earl, 
those are interesting articles you are writing — but no 
one steals the presidency of the United States.” 

I thought he might be kidding. But never was a 
man more deadly serious. We chatted for an hour or 
two about the campaign, the odd vote patterns in var- 
ious places, and this and that. Then, continent-by- 
continent, he enumerated potential international crises 
that could be dealt with only by the President of a 
united country, and not a nation torn by the kind of 
partisan bitterness and chaos that inevitably would 
result from an official challenge of the election result. 

At one point in the lengthy conversation, Nixon said: 
“Our country can’t afford the agony of a Constitutional 






crisis — and I damn well will not oe 
ust to become President or anythin 
Because of Nixon’s request the Hi 
the remainder of the Mazo series. 

Offers of money and lawyers to 
a „ainst the 1960 results continued tc 
Leonard W. Hall, who had^o-mat^ 
paign, recalls how Admiral Lewis Str 
the 8 Atomic Energy Commission, said 
ll^em Don't worry .bout the money 

^Halfcarried that message to Nixon, 
explaining the terrible damage that wt 
American image abroad should he chall 

A N ton also telephoned the ehito ot 

News and Chicago Tribune— Basil L. 

Maxwell respectively— and P kade ^ ^" 

to end their editorial campaigns demai 
the Cook County vote. Thus Nixon qv 
rapidly growing movement that mig 
whTL 8 feared 8 most-a 
have led to the paralysis of the preside 

great global unrest. 

8 John Kennedy, at that t.mo, was not .< 
ho was reallv “in” as President. The pa 
reports that the Republicans might contes 
that a lot of money was being raised 1 
Kennedy then did what he always did 
meTwith the man he had so narrow! _ 

tionably) beaten. Through ^ pranged. Kennedy flew 
President Hoover a meeti 8 where N j xo n was va- 

from Palm Beach to ey ^ a ’ £ter changing pleas- 
cationing. According ^ tell who won the 

r„n1dy;h?«£g much < h '“ W<m ' d b ' 

no contel. of his claim to House to 

Later the President-elect went*, fee vr ^ ^ ^ 
confer with outgoing Presi Kenne dy , “had regarded 

leS^'XSfn'in -he campaign and who had ap- 



«!>»»= .he sr «> ~ 

— ir * 

certainty of his election and thZ l ly reco 8 n,zi ng ‘he 
to the bitter charges of’fraud^the h . eIp,ng . t0 P ut an end 
and the threats of Southern iL™ w ? S for recounts 
Probably the most ,nt» »• d ?“ dent elec tors.” 
general unwillingness of tS' medt^to^ 001 1960 Was the 
that the election had been “stolen” h th P I^5 sue allegations 
a handful of newspapers (and th™ 7 he Democrats - Only 
Republican persuasion) were ex c£ general, y of ‘he 
story that could easily have devei*' ^ , e “ 0U8h *° look into a 
biggest political crime “S ° De ab ° U * “ the 

import than Watergate. entury, far greater in its 

specifically The eZy oTk^lZes opinion ’ m ost 

Post, played down the story A /for th^t I Washin 8 ton 
they were too enraptured 5 ^ with tv, h . te,evisi0n networks, 
inherent in a glamorous new h the . p,c t°rial possibilities 
to the requirement Jf a ZZ admimstT * t ™> one attuned 
Besides, most of the top televisi'on 8 '^^ t0 . show business, 
little secret of their favodnaKen personaIltle s had made 

first place. And some of them 7 ^ Nix ° n in the 
to aid Kennedy whenever they could 6 Th* ° f . th ®' r Way 
first televised “debate” between Kenn !f‘ T ^ US dunn S the 
ti°n was asked by one of thA? dy ^ Nixon a ques * 
though of little substantive value ^*™ n ' p f ne,ists which, 
Preddent all through the campaign P ^ ^ Vice 

admired o? Krane^ Th/ NBC°c Van ° Cur> an outspoken 
been making a practice of n ,r ? P ° ndent ' who had 
noted that Eisenhower had beef ^iiS^ P ° H * iCal focs > 
ample of a major idea of yours that h ^ g ' Ve one ex ' 

”*■ ““ 1 * m -if 



♦fN v ^ * migm 

toward his successoTdfd R no7’ improve P m uch ?*’* ne8ative altitude 
cupancy of the White House. Ike nL i? 1 $i nn * Kennedy’s oc- 
and c °uld not understand his n . Ug i htJFK “extremely over- 
Bobby Kennedy were expressed , n a, V^ - tke’s feelings about 

It is difficult for me to see , sinoi^ C, 'rc dated March 26, 1968- 
for the presidency. I think he is " hallow d '® c . aUon ‘ ha ‘ 'he man has 
on top of which he is indecisive Yet hiT’J, ? nd unlr ustworthy— 
is extraordinary. ...” attr action for many people 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 63 

think of one.’ Now, that was a month ago, sir, and the 
President hasn’t brought it up since, and I am wondering, 
sir, if you can clarify . . 

The day Eisenhower made the remark he phoned Nixon 
to express his anger toward the way it was being interpreted 
by the press. As Nixon wrote later, Eisenhower “pointed 
out he was simply being facetious and yet they played it 
straight and wrote it seriously. I could only reply to Van- 
ocur’s question in the same vein, but I am sure that to 
millions of unsophisticated televiewers, this question had 
been most effective in raising a doubt in their minds with 
regard to one of my strongest campaign themes and assets 
— my experience as Vice President.” 

What Nixon did not learn until later was that during at 
least one debate, he was dealing with a stacked deck. One 
of the newsmen-panelists had been in touch with Ken- 
nedy’s managers. Questions which the Kennedy camp 
wanted asked of Nixon were phoned to the newsman, who 
had no qualms about asking them. 

At the same time Kennedy’s advisers had unusual fa- 
cilities for determining what kind of questions were likely 
to be asked of the senator. As the Washington Star re- 
ported, “In all four debates, the Senator was not asked a 
single substantive question that had not been covered in 
the briefing.” As a result JFK was rarely at a loss for 
words. 

Little was left to chance. Kennedy’s managers had also 
taken the precaution of having one of their agents travel 
constantly with the Vice President. Whenever Nixon 
opened his mouth, whether it be in formal speeches or off- 
the-cuff remarks, tape recordings would be made and 
transmitted to the Democratic candidate. Kennedy spent 
considerable time, prior to each debate, listening to these 
tapes. His managers later claimed they helped put JFK in 
a properly aggressive mood. 

There were other times during the campaign when Nixon 
never knew what hit him. Kennedy, for example, made a 
big issue of the supposed decline of American prestige 
abroad during the Eisenhower-Nixon years. Nixon re- 
sponded by contending that U.S. prestige was at an all- 
time high. Kennedy then challenged the Republican admin- 
istration to make public surveys on the subject carried out 
overseas by the United States Information Agency (USIA). 



64 



VICTOR LASKY 



Nixon countered that these public opinion polls were 
classified as confidential — which, in fact, they were. 

That didn’t prevent the Kennedy camp from arranging 
for their theft from the supposedly secret files of the USIA 
and transmittal to Kennedy himself. As Ted Sorensen later 
reported, 

The polls strongly backed the Senator’s position and 
made Nixon’s claims about them look like deliberate 
misinformation. To avoid charges that he had im- 
properly obtained classified material, Kennedy turned 
the polls over to The New York Times , who im- 
mediately printed them without mention of how they 
had been acquired, and the Senator was then free to 
quote them as official proof of our plummeting pres- 
tige. 

Needless to say, this “dirty trick” — then considered only 
a bit of “upmanship” — did Kennedy no harm. Indeed it 
helped eke out his eyelash victory in a down-to-the-wire 
finish. Of course as President, Kennedy was not overly 
anxious to release USIA “prestige” polls taken during his 
administration. 



SIX 



In the late summer of 1963 Richard Nixon telephoned 
* to thank me for having sent him a pre-publication copy of 
my new book J.F.K.: The Man and the Myth , a critical 
look at the life and record of the man who had bested him 
for the presidency. 

At the time Nixon lived in New York. He had come to 
the Big Apple to seek his fortune after having been 
trounced in his 1962 race for the governorship of Cali- 
fornia. 

.“That’s quite a book,” the former Vice President told 
me. “I’ve just finished it and, frankly, I never knew what 
bastards those Kennedys were.” 

The remark puzzled me (and, for that matter, still does). 
Was it possible that Nixon never really knew what he was 
up against when he ran for President in 1960? 

“Those fellows sure know how to play rough,” Nixon 
went on. 

And I couldn’t have agreed more. For that very morning 
I had received a call from a Washington friend warning 
that the Kennedys were out to “get” me for having written 
that antagonistic book about the President. The friend, a 
staff member of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, 
reported that two of “Bobby’s boys” had been around look- 
ing for derogatory material about me in the files. They 
made one mistake, however, when they signed an official 
request for the material. But more of this later. 

I told Nixon about the call. He didn’t seem overly sur- 
prised. He said he had had similar problems with the 
Kennedys. Specifically, on his return to California follow- 
ing his 1960 defeat, the man who lost the presidency by a 
handful of votes found himself being audited by the In- 
ternal Revenue Service. As did Robert H. Finch, one of his 
1960 campaign managers. The experience wasn’t too 



66 VICTOR LASKY 

pleasant for either Nixon or Finch, involving as it did 
a time-consuming search for documents of all kinds, but in 
the end their tax returns were found to be in order. 

Nixon said that others involved in his presidential cam- 
paign had had similar experiences. “Oh, what the hell,” he 
said, “it’s all part of the game, I guess.” 

The Kennedys had long had an interest in the Internal 
Revenue Service. For one thing the family was often 
harassed during the Truman years for allegedly failing to 
pay its proper share of taxes. Joseph P. Kennedy, the pater- 
familias, had always blamed Truman for his woes. And 
now, following Jack’s election to the White House, the 
Kennedys felt that at long last the IRS was theirs. 

In fact the very first day he took over as Kennedy’s new 
IRS commissioner in 1961, Mortimer Caplin received a call 
from a White House aide who said “it was the President’s 
wish” that he immediately dismiss Donald Bacon as region- 
al commissioner in Boston. Bacon, the White House aide 
reported, was a “holdover Republican” who was creating 
tax difficulties for any number of good, loyal Massachusetts 
Democrats. Caplin, who had taught law at the University 
of Virginia before becoming the nation’s chief tax collector, 
thought there was something nonkosher about the request. 
He checked into the Democrats being investigated in the 
Bay State and found that they indeed were having tax 
problems, but justifiably. Whereupon, according to Caplin, 
he notified the President that he intended to retain the 
“holdover Republican” in his job. 

Caplin never did identify the aide who had called him 
with the President’s request. Apparently it was Carmine 
Bellino, who from the moment Kennedy entered the White 
House was interested in developing tax information with 
which to destroy the “political enemies” of the new ad- 
ministration. 

Bellino had been named special consultant to the Presi- 
dent. Few around the White House ever knew what he was 
up to. Those who did usually referred to him as a “trouble- 
shooter.” But in post- Watergate terms he could more ac- 
curately be described as a “hatchet man.” 

And assisting Bellino in developing tax information 
against Kennedy’s “enemies” was none other than Morti- 
mer Caplin — a fact which emerged during the course of 
the Senate Watergate hearings. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 67 

The disclosure came about following the testimony of 
John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, that the 
White House had sought to use the IRS to attack the ad- 
ministration’s political enemies. 

This was denied by John Ehrlichman, who cited a Senate 
debate published in the April 16, 1970, Congressional 
Record to demonstrate that procedures safeguarding the 
privacy of tax returns were much stricter under Nixon 
than under Kennedy in 1961. 

“Six days after [Kennedy’s] inauguration,” Ehrlichman 
testified, Bellino “called on the commissioner of Internal 
Revenue and undertofik inspection of many, many tax re- 
turns for days at a time.” 

Ehrlichman also noted that from Nixon’s inauguration 
up to the time of the 1970 Senate debate, the White 
House had made only nine written requests to the IRS for 
permission to view tax records. This contrasted sharply 
with the Kennedy administration, during which Bellino 
viewed tax records without written requests. 

Caplin was not immediately available for comment re- 
garding Ehrlichman’s allegations. However the Congres- 
sional Record for April 16, 1970, did contain a memoran- 
dum from JFK’s IRS commissioner stating that on January 
26, 1961 — six days after the inauguration — Bellino had 
shown up at his office to request “permission to inspect our 
files” on an individual whose name had been excised 
from the memo “and others.” 

“Although we had no precedent to guide us,” the Caplin 
memo went on, “we decided that Mr. Bellino, in his ca- 
pacity as a representative of the President, could inspect 
our files without a written request.” 

Bellino’s response to the Ehrlichman revelations was that 
he had every legal right to examine tax returns as part of 
an official Justice Department investigation of labor racke- 
teering, with particular emphasis on the Teamsters and its 
then chief, Jimmy Hoffa. After all, Bellino added, having 
been active in the Senate probe of labor racketeering in the 
fifties, he was probably the one person most familiar with 
the subject in the new administration. And that is why, 
he said, the President authorized him to check certain tax 
returns. 

But the fact remains that Bellino was not part of the 
Justice Department. He was a White House “consultant,” 



68 



VICTOR LASKY 



the same title later given to E. Howard Hunt during the 
Nixon years. 

As far as the Watergate hearings were concerned, the 
matter raised by Ehrlichman was left hanging. Sam Ervin, 
who had become a folk hero exposing the malefactions of 
the Nixon administration, wanted no part of looking into 
the excesses of the past — particularly the Democratic past. 

What we now know, thanks again to Ben Bradlee, was 
the enormous interest shown by President Kennedy in 
other people’s tax returns. For example Kennedy “stunned” 
Bradlee at the dinner table one night by revealing that J. 
Paul Getty, reputedly the richest man in the world, had 
paid exactly $500 in income taxes the previous year, while 
H. L. Hunt, the oil tycoon, forked over only $22,000 to 
IRS. 

Bradlee, needless to say, did not think it politic to inquire 
how or why the President happened to be carrying such 
precise data in his head. Obviously Kennedy had made 
some effort to acquire the information, planning to make 
some practical use of it. Exactly what he had in mind we 
probably will never know. A month later he was dead. 

But Bradlee did ask the President just how much Daniel 
Ludwig, the shipbuilding magnate, had paid in tax. Bradlee 
had been cruising with Kennedy when they noticed that a 
yacht owned by Ludwig had failed to turn out its crew to 
salute the President, a fact which seemed to annoy Ken- 
nedy. (Talk about the Imperial presidency!) 

Kennedy smiled at Bradlee’s question but didn’t bite. 
He pointed out that “all this tax information was secret, 
and it was probably illegal for him to know or at least for 
him to tell me.” But Bradlee pressed on, suggesting that 
JFK leaks IRS data on rich men’s returns in order to get 
a tax reform bill through the Congress. 

“Maybe after 1964,” replied Kennedy. 

Much has been made of the practice of the IRS during 
thd'Nixon years of urging special investigations of student 
protesters, Black militants, outright subversives, and any- 
one who was financing them. 

But the practice of using the IRS for political purposes 
did not start with Nixon. In the fall of 1961, at the behest 
of the Kennedy brothers, the targets were mainly tax- 
exempt right-wing groups whose cries of outrage were 
patently ignored by liberal groups which normally favor 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 69 

the right to dissent. In some cases liberal groups actively 
promoted the harassment, if not destruction, of ultra-con- 
servative voices which the media had labeled “kooky.” Un- 
doubtedly some of them were. But none of the organiza- 
tions harassed by the Kennedys advocated bomb-throwing, 
rioting, or outright revolution. 

The campaign to crush right-wing dissent had its origins 
in a twenty-four-page memorandum written by Victor 
Reuther of the United Automobile Workers. Transmitted 
to Robert Kennedy, the memorandum urged the use of 
federal agencies to head off and dry up conservative critics 
of the administration. The Attorney General liked it so 
much that he circulated copies to key members of the ad- 
ministration and sympathetic congressmen. 

Reuther, a longtime mover and shaker in liberal causes 
(including, believe it or not, civil liberties), began his re- 
pressive document by noting that President Kennedy had 
made several speeches attacking the “radical right” as a 
pernicious influence in American politics. He argued that 
such talk was not good enough. What was needed was 
governmental action. And he named as targets a host of or- 
ganizations and individuals. Included were such groups as 
the John Birch Society, Dr. Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti- 
Communist Crusade, and H. L. Hunt’s “Life Lines.” In- 
dividuals named by Reuther included the Reverend Billy 
James Hargis, and Senators Strom Thurmond and Barry 
Goldwater, among many others. 

Concerning these ideological misfits the Reuther mem- 
orandum said: “What are needed are deliberate policies 
and programs to contain the radical right from further 
expansion and in the long run to reduce it to its historic role 
of the impotent lunatic fringe . . . they must never be 
permitted to become so strong as to obstruct action needed 
for democratic survival and success.” 

Reuther then suggested various punitive measures, in- 
cluding the placing of the right-wing dissenters on the At- 
torney General’s list of subversive organizations. “The mere 
act of indicating that an investigation will be made will 
certainly bring home to many people something they have 
never considered — the subversive character of these or- 
ganizations and their similarity to the listed groups on the 
left.” 

Reuther also proposed that “the flow of big money to 



70 



VICTOR LASKY 



the radical right should be dammed to the extent possible,” 
urging that such organizations as the William Volker 
Fund, Dr. George Benson’s National Education Program, 
and the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade should be de- 
prived of their tax-exempt status. “Prompt revocation in a 
few cases might scare off a substantial part of the big 
money now flowing into these tax-exempt organizations.” 
Moreover there was “the big question whether Schwarz, 
Hargis, etc., are themselves complying with the tax laws.” 
Reuther said there was enough evidence to justify “the 
most complete check on these various means of financing 
the radical right.” 

Though the existence of the memorandum was known 
to the Washington press corps, the interest was minimal. 
In fact I was the first to “break” the story in my North 
American Newspaper Alliance column. No one, outside of 
a few of those affected by this would-be assault on the Con- 
stitution and the freedoms of the American people, really 
cared. No Senate committee was created to look into the 
matter. As always it was a case of whose ox was gored. 

President Kennedy soon mouthed the Reuther line. In 
reply to a question at a press conference, he said that the 
federal government ought to be concerned if tax-exempt 
money was being diverted to nonexempt purposes. This 
was a reference to the law which sets strict limitations on 
the direct political activities that may be engaged in by 
tax-exempt organizations. 

According to a staff report prepared for the Joint Com- 
mittee on Internal Revenue Taxation,* this comment was 
followed up by an inquiry to Mitchell Rogovin, then as- 
sistant to the IRS commissioner, from John Siegenthaler, 
then an assistant to Attorney General Kennedy. Siegen- 
thaler, a former investigative reporter, asked about the tax- 
exempt status of four or five organizations generally con- 
sidered to be right-wing, according to the report. That in- 
formation was quickly supplied. 

Rogovin himself supplied a list of eighteen organiza- 
tions for investigation, the names of which he claimed to 

* Investigation of the Special Service Staff of the Internal Revenue 
Service , Prepared for the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue 
Taxation By Its Staff, June 5, 1975 (Washington, D.C.: Government 
Printing Office, 1975). 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 71 

have gathered from articles in Time and Newsweek .* An 
audit of most of them was begun almost immediately. At 
the same time the regional IRS commissioners in New 
York and San Francisco were ordered to launch examina- 
tions of “six large corporate taxpayers” who were alleged 
to be financial backers of “extremist groups.” 

At this early stage the program appeared to be focused 
entirely on right-wing organizations. Concern was ex- 
pressed about this pronounced ideological bias. Rogovin 
therefore sent over a list of what he described as “alleged 
left of center” organizations for investigation. Since he had 
difficulty obtaining the names of such organizations, Rog- 
ovin thinks he may have asked the FBI for help. 

Mortimer Caplin, who was then Commissioner of In- 
ternal Revenue, made reports on the progress of the in- 
vestigation of “ideological organizations” not only to his 
superior in the Treasury Department, Undersecretary 
Henry Fowler, but also to Myer Feldman, a member of 
the White House staff, and to Attorney General Kennedy. 

By the summer of 1963 the investigation apparently 
dwindled to a state of complete inactivity — so much so that 
there were renewed demands for action on the part of 
liberal spokesmen. Senator Maurine Neuberger, for exam- 
ple, speaking before the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political 
Education, demanded the cancellation of tax exemptions of 
conservative organizations, including the most scholarly. “It 
is painfully clear,” the Oregon Democrat said, “that the tax 
service has simply not done the job Congress gave it, to 
rout out the propagandists from the bona fide educators.” 

On July 5, 1963, Feldman, then deputy special counsel 
to the President, requested a report from Caplin on the 
progress of the investigation. By this time the revocation - 
of the exempt status of two right-wing organizations had 
been recommended and another had been warned that the 
IRS intended to revoke its exemption. 

•On leaving government, Rogovin became one of Washington’s 
better-known civil liberties lawyers. He represented various individuals 
and organizations in legal actions stemming from alleged harassment 
during the Nixon administration, but was forced to withdraw as 
general counsel of Common Cause and the Institute for Policy 
Studies (a leftist think tank) when — surprisingly — he agreed to act 
as outside counsel for the beleaguered CIA in 1975. 



72 



VICTOR LASKY 



Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the White 
House. For President Kennedy himself got on the phone 
and told Caplin that he wanted the IRS “to go ahead with 
(an) aggressive program — on both sides of center.” By this 
time JFK had become terribly annoyed with left-wingers 
who were badgering him not only for his anti-Castro ac- 
tivities but for his intervention in Vietnam. 

Caplin later told congressional investigators that he 
thought Kennedy had called him “because Mr. Feldman 
might have thought that the Service was dragging its feet 
and was not aggressive enough.” 

Within the week Rogovin met with Feldman at the 
White House. The purpose was to bring the White House 
up to date on the anti-extremist program. At another 
meeting a month later, Feldman suggested the deletion of 
two organizations — one left-wing and one right-wing — 
from the list under study. This was promptly arranged. 

At about the same time Rogovin met with Robert Ken- 
nedy to brief the Attorney General on the status of the 
project. Kennedy recommended “expediting” the investiga- 
tion of one right-wing group. This too was done. The 
group’s tax-exempt status was subsequently lifted. 

A task force which was set up following these various 
meetings finally recommended revocation of the exempt 
status of fifteen organizations, all but one of which could 
be described as right-wing. 

The irony is that the IRS witch-hunt, particularly as it 
was concentrated against right-wing dissenters, was ap- 
plauded by the very same people who later were to raise 
unshirted hell when the Nixon administration sought to 
use the same techniques to “contain” — in Reuther’s word — 
the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and other violence- 
prone New Left groups. 

The Kennedy administration also decided to go after 
its right-wing critics in the broadcast media. Reuther had 
noted the increasing use of conservative commentaries on 
the airwaves. And his memorandum suggested that the IRS 
be instructed to check into the business sponsorship of 
these programs. Observing that the broadcasts invariably 
lambasted Kennedy and his “liberal” policies, Reuther 
also proposed that the Federal Communications Com- 
mission conduct an investigation “into the extent of the 
practice of giving free time to the radical right,” as well 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 73 

as the possibility of taking “measures to encourage sta- 
tions to assign comparable time for an opposing point of 
view on a free basis.” In other words Reuther wanted the 
FCC to enforce the “fairness doctrine” against right-wing 
commentators. 

The fairness of the FCC’s “fairness doctrine” came 
under strong attack in early 1975 with the disclosure that 
the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had used the 
rule to stifle radio attacks during the 1964 presidential 
campaign. 

The disclosure was contained in The Good Guys , the Bad 
Guys and the First Amendment , written by Fred W. 
Friendly — Edward R. Murrow Professor at the Columbia 
Graduate School of Journalism, a Ford Foundation ad- 
viser, and former president of CBS News.* 

Friendly focused on the 1969 Supreme Court decision 
which upheld the right of the FCC to order a broadcaster 
to grant reply time to a person or group claiming to have 
suffered from a broadcast. Digging into the tangled back- 
ground of the case, Friendly discovered that the decision 
was “tainted.” 

What had happened back in the New Frontier was this, 
according to Friendly: Since “Kennedy and the Demo- 
cratic National Committee believed that the Republicans 
might nominate Goldwater and that the right-wing radio 
commentators who supported him could damage the Presi- 
dent’s chances for re-election,” the White House “decided 
to see if the fairness doctrine could again be used, this time 
for partisan political purposes.” 

According to Friendly, the Democrats created and main- 
tained professionally staffed organizations that monitored 
stations carrying right-wing commentary and then de- 
manded time for reply. The White House was particularly 
anxious to blunt broadcasters critical of such administra- 
tion goals as the nuclear test ban treaty. These demands for 
equal time, which stations would have to provide gratis, 
were regarded by most of their executives as harassments 
they’d rather avoid. This many of them did, either by 
dropping the commentaries or by censoring them. 

•An excerpt from the book was published as an article in The New 
York Times Magazine , March 30, 1975. The book itself was pub- 
lished by Random House in 1976. 



74 



VICTOR LASKY 



It was a conspiracy, pure and simple; one which was 
aimed at curbing free expression. And, according to 
Friendly, it led right to the door of the Oval Office. For 
directing the campaign aimed at curbing dissent was none 
other than Kenneth P. O’Donnell who, as White House ap- 
pointments secretary, troubleshooter, and expediter, was 
considered to be Kennedy’s political right-hand.* At a meet- 
ing in the Fish Room O’Donnell instructed Wayne Phillips, 
a former New York Times reporter then working for the 
Housing and Home Finance Agency, to check whether 
the fairness doctrine could be used in behalf of the 
President’s reelection campaign. Whereupon Phillips hired 
Wesley McCune, a specialist who kept track of right- 
wingers and their organizations, to monitor commentators. 
As a result of McCune’s efforts the Democrats were able to 
reply quickly to hundreds of broadcasts — for free. 

The success of this venture convinced the Democratic 
National Committee that it had a good thing going. Not 
only was the DNC getting a lot of free time, but its covert 
campaign — as one of its former officials told Friendly — 
succeeded in inhibiting many right-wing stations. A “con- 
fidential” DNC memorandum put it this way: 

The right-wingers operate on a strictly cash basis and 
it is for this reason that they are carried by so many 
small stations. Were our efforts to be continued on a 
year-round basis, we would find that many of these 
stations would consider the broadcast of these pro- 
grams bothersome and burdensome (especially if they 
are ultimately required to give us free time) and 
would start dropping the programs from their broad- 
cast schedule. 

So the DNC decided to expand. It retained the public 
relations firm of Ruder & Finn, which in turn set up a 
phony committee, seemingly divorced from the Dem- 
ocratic party but actually financed by it. This was done 
through a system of “laundering” party funds for the pur- 
pose of deception. 

•Years later President Nixon’s appointments secretary, Dwight 
Chapin, hired a college chum, Donald Segretti, to play silly pranks 
on the Democrats. But Chapin, unlike O’Donnell, got caught at it. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 75 

The phony committee was supposedly bipartisan. It was 
given a fancy title — The National Council for Civic Re- 
sponsibility. Selected as its head was a liberal Republican, 
Arthur Larson, who had served as director of the United 
States Information Agency under Eisenhower. Larson, who 
was sincerely alarmed at what he considered the growing 
influence of “radical reactionary organizations” (talk about 
name calling), apparently was not aware that the National 
Council was an undercover parapolitical operation of the 
Democratic party. 

At least Larson gave that impression on the eve of the 
1964 election. Asked whether his organization was in- 
volved with any political party, Larson said: “No, this is 
completely divorced from political parties because neither 
President Johnson nor General Eisenhower nor anybody 
connected with the political campaign was aware that this 
organization was about to be formed.” 

Of course Larson now knows better. 

Several hundred distinguished Americans gladly gave 
their names as sponsors of the new supposedly nonpartisan 
group. They included Marion B. Folsom, former member 
of the Eisenhower cabinet; General J. Lawton Collins, 
former army chief of staff; Detlev Bronk, president of 
Rockefeller Institute; Erwin Griswold, dean of Harvard 
Law School; Robert B. Meyner, former Democratic gov- 
ernor of New Jersey; and Ralph McGill, publisher of the 
Atlanta Constitution . 

The National Council for Civic Responsibility had been 
formed too quickly to obtain a tax-exempt status. So the 
Democrats arranged to combine it with the Public Affairs 
Institute headed by H. Dewey Anderson. This was a pre- 
Nader type of “citizen’s lobby,” more or less defunct, 
which had one charm from the Democrats* viewpoint — it 
had tax exemption. Thus the National Council was per- 
mitted to solicit tax-deductible contributions. The biggest 
donation, however, was a fat $50,000 check from the 
Democratic National Committee. Later the DNC sent over 
additional thousands of dollars in cash. 

According to Friendly, Dewey Anderson had been con- 
tacted by James H. Rowe, a Washington lawyer closely 
associated with Democratic presidents from Roosevelt to 
Johnson. Rowe asked Anderson to meet privately at the 
offices of the Democratic National Committee with Chair- 



76 



VICTOR LASKY 



man John Bailey and Treasurer Richard Maguire, an old 
JFK hand from Massachusetts. 

“We got the money and you got the tax exemption and 
we need you to fight these right-wing radio extremists,” 
Anderson recalls Bailey and Rowe telling him. Anderson 
was only too happy to cooperate. Voild . What had been 
known as the National Council for Civic Responsibility be- 
came the National Committee for Civic Responsibility of 
the Public Affairs Institute. The tax-exempt status, of 
course, meant not only that contributions could be writ- 
ten off but that the taxpayer, in the final analysis, was pay- 
ing for a partisan political effort. 

Needless to say, this amounted to a political dirty trick 
of gigantic proportions — and one that violated a law 
which, incidentally, had been introduced in 1954 by none 
other than then Senator Lyndon Johnson. 

But prior to Watergate, dirty tricks were an accepted 
practice in political life and no one paid too much atten- 
tion. The National Committee obtained considerable media 
coverage. Only one reporter, Jack Anderson, exposed the 
fact that the Civic Responsibility group had been covertly 
financed with Democratic funds; but this was four months 
after the election, and no one seemed to care. Once LBJ 
was elected, the Democrats lost interest in subsidizing a 
campaign to expose the villainous right-wingers who, only 
months before, had constituted such a potent threat to 
American freedom. These “sleazy and seamy activities,” as 
Dewey Anderson more recently described them, went 
thoroughly unnoticed by the same news media which years 
later were to go ape over every sordid Watergate detail. 

Larson himself feels sheepish about his participation in 
this pre-Watergate-type activity. “The whole thing was not 
my idea,” he told Friendly, “but let’s face it, we decided 
to use radio and the fairness doctrine to harass the extreme 
right. In the light of Watergate, it was wrong. We felt the 
ends justified the means. They never do. I guess I was like a 
babe in the woods.” 

An estimated $200,000 in tax-exempt funds was raised by 
the Larson group. To counteract right-wing broadcasts, the 
national committee produced its own series of radio pro- 
grams, described by Friendly as “as shrill as those they 
were designed to counter.” The researcher was a free- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 77 

lance writer, Fred Cook, who was paid by Ruder & Finn. 
In addition Cook was subsidized by the Democratic Na- 
tional Committee to write a book on the 1964 Republican 
candidate for President entitled Goldwater: Extremist of 
the Right.* Also at the behest of Wayne Phillips, now an 
official at the Democratic National Committee, Cook wrote 
an article for The Nation entitled “Hate Groups of the 
Air,” about right-wing extremists supposedly dominating 
the airwaves. Much of the research for The Nation article 
was provided by Wesley McCune. 

The Reverend Billy James Hargis, who bought time on 
stations for his daily “Christian Crusade” broadcasts, taped 
a two-minute reply to Cook, terming him a “professional 
mudslinger” for his Goldwater book as well as his article 
for The Nation. In addition Hargis accused Cook of 
dishonesty, of falsifying stories, and of having written a 
book defending Alger Hiss. In so doing, Hargis provided 
an inexact account of how Cook came to lose his job at 
the New York World-Telegram & Sun in 1959. 

One of the stations carrying the Hargis broadcast was 
WGCB, located in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. Cook de- 
manded that the station grant him equal time to reply. The 
tiny station refused, saying in effect that if Cook wanted 
to broadcast over its facilities he would have to pay for 
the time. Cook then took the matter to the FCC, which 
ruled in his favor under the fairness doctrine. Eventually 
the matter went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the 
ruling. The Red Lion case became historic because, as 
Fred Friendly pointed out, the court’s unanimous ruling 
established “the power of government to intervene directly 
in the content of broadcasting.” 

But, as Friendly also noted, Cook did not bring his ac- 
tion against WGCB simply as “an offended private citizen.” 
Cook was a participant in White House efforts to suppress 

*By coincidence Fred Cook sat behind me on the rewrite battery of 
the now defunct New York World-Telegram & Sun. Also by coin- 
cidence, as Fred Friendly noted in his Times article, the technique 
used to bring out the Cook book was “similar to Laurence Rocke- 
feller’s financing of the Victor Lasky book critical of former 
Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.” With one difference, how- 
ever. At the time I did not know that Laurence Rockefeller was my 
patron. 



78 



VICTOR LASKY 



right-wing voices — a fact not known either by the FCC or 
the Supreme Court when the Red Lion case was being ad- 
judicated. 

Henry Geller, the FCC general counsel who wrote the 
decision upholding Cook’s right of reply, termed the 
startling information uncovered by Friendly “alarming,” 
and said he would have written the rules differently had 
he known how the Red Lion case came about. 

Billy James Hargis, whose stations began dropping him 
“by the dozens” because of the organized requests for free 
time, observed: “I had said all along there was a cam- 
paign by the White House to get me, but no one in the 
press would listen to me or believe me.” 

And there is no doubt, as Friendly quotes a former 
Ruder & Finn executive who handled the clandestine White 
House operation, that “if we did in 1974 what we did in 
1964, we’d be answering questions before some Con- 
gressional Committee” — and, it could be added, probably 
before old “Maximum John.” 

“But,” as columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., observed, 
“one hopes that the liberal moralist on night-duty for the 
Establishment will take the time to express an appropriate 
shame and contrition over the hypocrisy, deception, and 
unlawfulness of the Democratic Creeps of ten years ago.” 
That will be the day. 



SEVEN 



It is a curious fact, though one that many observers still re- 
fuse to accept, that in many of the offenses that occurred 
in the Watergate era John Kennedy clearly anticipated 
Richard Nixon. Kennedy, too, talked about “getting” his 
enemies. “Don’t get mad, get even,” was the well-known 
watchword along the New Frontier. And people who 
worked for the Kennedys formed a cadre of “do-anything- 
for-the-boss” loyalists — an “Irish Mafia,” as they were 
called, antedating the clumsier “German Mafia” that at- 
tained such disrepute under Nixon. 

Kennedy and his top aides, in particular, liked to think 
of themselves as being “tough” and “hardnosed,” terms 
that were considered compliments in the Camelot era. Thus 
at the height of the 1962 steel crisis Kennedy told Ben 
Bradlee that the major companies “fucked us, and we’ve 
got to fuck them.” (Kennedy’s use of the four-letter word 
and its declensions so popular among the young was most 
prolific.) 

Like the two presidents who succeeded him, Kennedy 
was obsessed with the press. What made his obsession so 
ludicrous, however, was that, better than most other chief 
executives, he had won over a media which for the most 
part was entranced with his grace and style. And even 
today, because of the trauma of his untimely death, a 
mythic glow protects his memory. Or as Joe Flaherty put 
it in The Village Voice , “When one thinks of Kennedy’s 
sins, the transgressions are muted by memories of his 
elan.” 

Kennedy was expert at “using” the media. Most revealing 
was a memo found in his handwriting at the Kennedy Li- 
brary in Waltham, Massachusetts. Dated October 22, 1962, 
the memo concerned the Cuban missile crisis. Addressed 
to his staff, it read: “Is there a plan to brief and brain- 



80 



VICTOR LASKY 



wash key press within twelve hours or so?” There followed 
a list of those to be “brainwashed”: The New York Times , 
Walter Lippmann, Marquis Childs, Joseph Alsop, and “key 
bureau chiefs.”* 

The harsh fact remains that Kennedy hated to be 
criticized and, on occasion, he would, like Nixon after 
him, let off steam by voicing bravura threats of retaliation. 
In his book The Politics of Lying David Wise tells the 
little-known story of how Kennedy, displeased with an 
NBC-TV news treatment of his handling of the steel crisis, 
phoned FCC Chairman Newton Minow, saying: “Did you 
see that goddamn thing on Huntley-Brinkley? I thought 
they were supposed to be our friends. I want you to do 
something about that. You do something about that.” 

Fortunately, Minow did nothing. Instead he phoned Ken 
O’Donnell the next day to say, “Just tell the President he’s 
very lucky he has an FCC chairman who doesn’t do what 
the President tells him.” 

On another occasion a Fischetti cartoon caused an ex- 
plosion in the President’s suite at the Carlyle Hotel in New 
York. Published on the front page of the New York 
Herald-Tribune, it pictured press secretary Pierre Salinger, 
just returned from Moscow, as telling Kennedy, “Mr. Khru- 
shchev said he liked your style in the steel crisis.” 

At 7:30 a. m. the phone rang in the hotel room occupied 
by Dave Wise, the Tribune' s White House correspondent. 
“I just wanted you to know the President’s reaction to this 
morning’s Herald-Tribune Salinger told a startled Wise. 
“The fucking Herald-Tribune is at it again.” And, Salinger 
added, the President would very much appreciate it if Wise 
would personally so inform his publisher John Hay Whit- 
ney. Which Wise did, much to “Jock” Whitney’s discom- 
fiture. 

Back in Washington later a still steaming Kennedy or- 
dered the cancellation of all twenty-two White House sub- 
scriptions to the Herald-Tribune . And Salinger let it be 

♦The memo was among nearly 100,000 Kennedy papers made public 
in January 1974. Some years later when staff members of the Senate 
Intelligence Committee visited the Library, according to William 
Satire, “suspicious gaps were, discovered in the telephone logs of the 
President’s calls. Nor was there any record of a private telephone, 
installed in a tiny room just off the Oval Office, where Kennedy 
made private calls outside the White House switchboard.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 81 

known that the President had a dramatic purpose in mind 
— namely, to call attention to the double standard em- 
ployed by the “once-respected” Trib in its free-wheeling 
coverage of the Democratic scandals involving Billy Sol 
Estes, while taking a more nonchalant approach toward a 
then current Senate probe into alleged hanky-panky of 
Eisenhower administration figures. “And those bastards 
didn’t have a line on it,” Kennedy told Bradlee. “We read 
enough shit. We just don’t have to read that particular 
brand.” 

The banning of the Tribune backfired. Even normally 
friendly sources noted that the President not only can- 
celed his own subscription, but twenty-one others, leaving 
the impression that he was deciding the reading habits of 
his associates. “‘President Kennedy,” observed the late 
Robert G. Spivack, “grimly believes in the right to dis- 
sent. In fact, he will tell you what you can dissent about.” 

Later the White House leaked the story that the Trib's 
banishment was actually the work of an “overzealous” aide 
rather than the President’s, but that hardly squares with 
accounts of the incident published by insiders Schlesinger, 
Sorensen, and Bradlee. The truth is Kennedy despised the 
Herald-Tribune , believing that its publisher was keeping it 
alive in order to help Rockefeller’s presidential chances in 
1964 . 

Obviously Kennedy was no stranger to the concept of an 
enemies list — or what he less elegantly called a “shit list” — 
and surprisingly, of all people, Ben Bradlee once found 
himself on it. “Benjy” felt Kennedy’s icy scorn after he 
talked too freely to Fletcher Knebel, who was writing a 
piece entitled “Kennedy vs. The Press” for Look mag- 
azine. In the piece Bradlee was quoted as saying of the 
Kennedy brothers, “It’s almost impossible to write a story 
they like. Even if a story is quite favorable to their side, 
they’ll find one paragraph to quibble with.” 

That did it. For several months Benjy lived in virtual 
purgatory. No longer did he hear from the President. No 
longer was he invited over to the White House for dinner 
and those oh-so-intimate conversations. He knew he had 
done the unpardonable — he had criticized the Kennedys. 
Finally from out of the blue Kennedy called. The “exile” 
was over. And once again Benjy was a happy man. 

Despite his closeness to JFK, Bradlee is convinced to this 



82 



VICTOR LASKY 



day that he had been wiretapped by the Kennedys. “My 
God,” he told me, “they wiretapped practically everyone 
else in this town.”* 

And Bradlee knew what he was talking about. The Ken- 
nedys’ predilection for listening in on other people’s pri- 
vate conversations constituted seminal work in this field. 
They established a record in the number of wiretaps, both 
authorized and unauthorized, that has yet to be equaled. 
Not even the Nixon administration topped them. 

In fact Kennedy delighted in joking about this. Again 
we turn to Bradlee for the evidence. It seems that dur- 
ing the steel crisis, the President toasted Attorney General 
Kennedy at a dinner party. In so doing he referred to a 
phone conversation he had had with Thomas F. Patton of 
Republic Steel. 

Patton had complained that Bobby was wiretapping steel 
executives and harrassing them through the IRS. The 
President assured Patton that the Attorney General would 
never do any such thing. 

“And of course,” the President said in closing, “Patton 
was right.” 

At that point Bobby rose and yelled in mock anger, 
“They were mean to my brother. They can’t do that to 
my brother.” 

Which, of course, meant that the administration — with 
the President’s knowledge and approval — had indeed been 
harassing executives who had the temerity to raise steel 
prices. In view of Bradlee’s later preoccupation with presi- 
dential abuses of power, it is instructive to note that the 
future executive editor of the Washington Post apparently 
saw nothing wrong with such behavior. For one thing he 
did not expose these serious violations of civil liberties. In 
fact even now Benjy appears to treat the whole episode in 
a humorous vein. 

Not everyone in the press corps was amused by such 
goings-on. Hanson Baldwin, for one, shook up the Oval 
Office by denouncing Kennedy (in an article in the April 
1963 issue of Atlantic) for using intimidation as a weapon. 

♦My conversation with Bradlee took place outside the Watergate 
apartments, where we both lived, the weekend following Nixon’s 
resignation. I had begun the chat by remarking, “Well, you finally 
did it. You ‘got’ the President.” Bradlee countered by saying I was 
wrong. “Nixon did it to himself,” he said. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 83 

Baldwin, then military affairs analyst of The New York 
Times , charged that “the blatant methods used by the Ad- 
ministration and its tampering with the news deserve con- 
siderably more criticism and discussion than they have re- 
ceived.” 

Kennedy told Bradlee that the reason for Baldwin’s 
disenchantment was that, in some article, he had com- 
mitted a “major security violation” which, in turn, had 
led to a ‘“massive FBI investigation.” Significantly Bradlee 
did nothing to sound the tocsin about this obvious viola- 
tion of the First Amendment. Of course in years to come 
Bradlee was to become more vigilant about such viola- 
tions. 

What the President apparently did not tell Benjy, how- 
ever, was the fact that his brother had ordered the FBI to 
wiretap both Baldwin and his secretary, not only at their 
New York Times offices but at their homes. Or that a year 
before, in 1961, a tap had been placed on one of Bradlee’s 
colleagues, Lloyd Norman, then Newsweek ' s Pentagon cor- 
respondent. 

Bradlee, of course, had suspected that a lot of this sort 
of thing was going on, but it wasn’t until a decade later 
that he learned the full extent of Kennedy wiretapping. 

Also among those wiretapped was French-born Pro- 
fessor Bernard Fall of Howard University, who had written 
numerous books on Indochina and had reportedly main- 
tained close contact with representatives of North Viet- 
nam. 

Another was Robert Amory, Jr., a top CIA official who 
was a close friend of the President. The allegation at the 
time was that Amory was friendly with an East European 
diplomat believed to be an undercover intelligence agent. 

Most of these taps may have been said to have a “nation- 
al security” purpose, but a number could hardly be so 
described. Within months of his becoming Attorney Gen- 
eral, for example, Robert Kennedy authorized FBI wire- 
taps in a wide-ranging investigation of sugar lobbying in 
behalf of the Dominican Republic and other countries. 
Among six individuals whose phones were tapped was 
Christine Gallagher, then chief clerk of the House Agri- 
culture Committee and secretary to Committee Chairman 
Harold Cooley of North Carolina. A bug was placed in the 
New York hotel room where Cooley was to meet foreign 



84 



VICTOR LASKY 



officials, and Robert Kennedy received FBI reports on in- 
formation so obtained. Also tapped were three officials of 
the Agriculture Department, as well as the law firm of 
Surrey & Karasik, which represented Dominican sugar in- 
terests. The investigation went on for over a year but 
never produced an indictment. 

And following the 1964 publication , of a seventy-one 
page pamphlet, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe , 
which suggested that the death of the actress was not the 
result of suicide but of murder, its right-wing author Frank 
A. Capell was subjected to a wiretap authorized by Ken- 
nedy’s successor as Attorney General, Nicholas D. Katzen- 
bach. Needless to say, this could hardly have been con- 
sidered a “national security” matter. 

As Richard Nixon was later to note, JFK initiated far 
more taps than he did (as many as 100, said Nixon), and 
Kennedy didn’t even have a war on his hands. 

Electronic surveillance was ordered by the Kennedys 
during the searing controversy over Moise Tshombe and 
his efforts to have the copper-rich Katanga Province secede 
from what then was the former Belgian Congo. The Ken- 
nedys opposed secession, and the issue became a hot one as 
Republican critics claimed the President was involving him- 
self in something that was none of his business. 

Carl T. Rowan, then in the State Department, recalled 
recently a speech he delivered in Philadelphia 

that turned out to be ultra-controversial because I 
talked about the large amounts of money being spent 
to sway U.S. congressmen and others by Tshombe’s 
U.S. lobbyist, Michel Streulens. It has never been 
revealed how I could make the charges with such con- 
fidence. The simple fact is that the State Department 
had regular access to Streulens’s bank records and 
knew on whom he was spending his substantial ex- 
pense account. 

Furthermore, there were daily reports on what 
Streulens and Tshombe said to each other via telex. 
I assumed — correctly — that someone in our govern- 
ment was monitoring. 

This inside information gave the Kennedy Admin- 
istration and the State Department considerable ad- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 85 

vantage in the bruising domestic debate that raged for 
months. 

Apparently Rowan has had second thoughts about all of 
this. For, in a recent column, he asked: 

“Did ‘national security’ justify some bank giving the 
government, without subpoena or other process of law, 
records of Streulens’s expenditures? Did some overriding 
national interest justify the monitoring of Streulens’s telex 
messages? Answers to those questions will not come easy to 
many Americans.” 

Hanson Baldwin’s article in the Atlantic was an impor- 
tant one. Typically it was generally overlooked in the age 
of Camelot. Though he did not describe his own unpleasant 
experiences with the FBI, he did say that the free-wheeling 
use of federal cops to investigate leaks had grown to menac- 
ing proportions. He claimed that some of the most re- 
spected reporters in Washington had experienced “the treat- 
ment,” which included FBI visits to their homes, tapping of 
their phones, shadowing of reporters, investigations of their 
friendships, and other forms of intimidation. “In all these 
cases the newsmen concerned have told the FBI in effect 
that their sources were their business,” Baldwin reported. 

. . These investigations have ranged throughout the 
Pentagon, the State Department, and other executive 
branches of government. And Mr. Kennedy has been the 
first President to send the FBI into the Pentagon, supersed- 
ing the services’ own investigative and internal security 
agencies.” 

At the same time Kennedy had no compunction about 
trying to get correspondents fired by calling their publish- 
ers. He did this in the case of David Halberstam, whose 
reports on Vietnam to The New York Times infuriated the 
President. As far as can be determined, this was another 
of JFK’s “historic firsts.” 

For the most part the media allowed this extraordinary 
state of affairs to continue with little criticism. The Brad- 
lees and others, who years later were to take the lead 
in bringing down a President for abusing his powers, said 
nothing — at least publicly — about such abuses when com- 
mitted by the Kennedys. 

Exactly how much wiretapping went on within the White 



86 



VICTOR LASKY 



House itself has never been fully determined. But apparent- 
ly it was widespread. Years later when Watergate broke 
wide open, Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, Kennedy’s 
air force aide, was quoted by Betty Beale as saying: “When 
I was in the White House, my phone was bugged all the 
time. Everybody’s was. The FBI men would even come 
to the office and play back something I said on the phone 
and ask if it wasn’t classified. I would tell them, ‘No, I 
was discussing a story that had already appeared in the 
newspaper.’ A few days later they would be back to ask 
about another comment — because they didn’t keep up with 
the number of newspapers we had to read.” 

The Kennedys’ use of the FBI to do their dirty work ex- 
tended to the flap over steel prices in the spring of 1962. 
FBI agents were dispatched in the middle of the night to 
interview reporters on their published accounts of inter- 
views with steel executives. Max Lerner found the episode 
“distasteful” and smacking of a “police operation,” while 
the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch described it as an 
“indefensible abuse of personal power by a hired public 
servant” — meaning Bobby Kennedy. 

Bobby, of course, was the enforcer in his brother’s ad- 
ministration. He was the tough guy, who had few com- 
punctions about using threats to silence political opponents. 
There was the occasion he called in Earl Mazo of the 
New York Herald-Tribune . Mazo had written a series of 
articles about Texas’s wheeler-dealer Billie Sol Estes and 
his financially profitable, though questionable, ties with the 
New Frontier. 

According to Mazo, Bobby “blew his stack” in denounc- 
ing him. On his desk Bobby had placed a thick folder 
conspicuously marked with Mazo’s name. It was obvious 
that the Justice Department had collected quite a file on 
the maverick newsman, who happened to have been born 
in Poland. The atmosphere was one of intimidation. And, 
as Mazo recalled, “Bobby’s so-called ‘lecture,’ as it has been 
described, was in reality a childish outburst He was so en- 
raged over our coverage of the Estes scandal that I ex- 
pected at any moment he would throw himself to the 
floor, screaming and bawling for his way. Instead, he paced 
back and forth, storming and complaining. It was some- 
thing to seel” (That was the week, incidentally, when 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 87 

President Kennedy banned Mazo’s newspaper from the 
White House.) 

Extraordinary measures were taken by the Kennedys in 
order to whip press critics into line. Representative Bob 
Wilson, a California Republican, told his fellow solons at 
the time, “I know of one instance where a publisher was in- 
vited to the White House where he was wined and dined 
. . . and then was asked to go down the street to the De- 
partment of Justice, where he had a conference with the 
President’s brother. The conference had to do with a 
possible anti-trust violation. So, the orders soon went out — 
and we have this on good authority — that the critical 
columnists and newspapermen on this particular paper 
were to let up on their criticism of the New Frontier.” 

Wilson also reported that other newsmen who were 
critical of the administration were offered “very cozy and 
very attractive jobs. One columnist told me that he was 
offered a very exciting job in the State Department. He 
turned it down. Shortly thereafter his income-tax returns 
were being checked.” 

Another who suddenly began having difficulties with 
the IRS was columnist Jim Bishop. “They started about 
the time Robert Kennedy became the Attorney General. I 
wrote a story and said he acted as though the rest of us 
were working on his old man’s plantation. After that, 
audits.” 

Likewise Walter Winchell’s taxes received a fine-tooth 
combing after the Broadway columnist had given un- 
shirted hell to both JFK and RFK. As Winchell told me 
at the time, “The Kennedys are out to ‘get’ me.” The col- 
umnist said he had never before had that much trouble 
with the IRS, even when Truman, whom he had attacked 
just as vigorously, had been President. 

This writer, too, had aroused Bobby’s fury for having 
written J.F.K.: The Man and the Myth . After the book 
zoomed to number one on the bestseller lists, it was dis- 
closed that federal officials had launched an investigation 
of me. Apparently President Kennedy himself took a more 
tolerant view of the book. As he told Time-Life correspon- 
dent Hugh Sidey at the time, “I read the whole thing and 
found it fascinating.” 

Bobby did not find the book fascinating. And he sought 



88 



VICTOR LASKY 



to cover up a highly improper, if not illegal, investigation 
of me. At first, in a letter to then Senator Kenneth Keating 
. of New York, the Attorney General emphatically denied he 
had ever authorized any such investigation. Only later — 
after evidence had been produced — did he concede that 
“overzealous” officials had undertaken the probe, but with- 
out his approval. As it turned out, these officials had served 
under Bobby as Senate investigators. Both were known to 
have a penchant for wiretapping and, following the 1960 
election, had been placed on the payroll of the Immigration 
and Naturalization Service. What Keating had also es- 
tablished at the time was that the FBI had originally been 
asked to conduct the investigation but that Hoover em- 
phatically refused to involve the Bureau in what was, as the 
director put it, strictly a “political vendetta.” 

The “overzealous” snoopers had as one of their chores 
the task of trying to link me with subversive activities. To 
this end they scoured government dossiers looking for any 
kind of dirt. But they blundered when they signed an of- 
ficial request for such information from the Senate Internal 
Security Subcommittee. Whereupon one of the subcom- 
mittee’s employees — an old friend — phoned to warn me 
that Bobby’s boys were poking around the files. 

The files contained nothing. But that did not stop the 
Attorney General from unloosing a campaign of vilifica- 
tion. All of a sudden several Democratic chairmen in West- 
ern states publicly accused me of being an ex-Communist, 
while Democratic National Chairman John Bailey de- 
scribed me as a “Birchite.” Thus the executive wing of 
government, under the Kennedys, used its enormous power 
in an attempt to defame one of its critics. 

In retrospect what made the entire episode even more 
significant was the total lack of interest shown by the 
same liberal press which was to become outraged — and 
quite properly so-— by the Nixon administration’s misuse of 
the FBI in conducting a field investigation of Daniel 
Schorr. Such newspapers as the Washington Post and The 
New York Times couldn’t have cared less about the viola- 
tions of the civil liberties of an anti-Kennedy author. No 
teams of investigative reporters were assigned to dig into 
what appeared to be an insidious attack on the First 
Amendment. Likewise not one word of protest emanated 
from the usually vigilant American Civil Liberties Union. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



89 



If anything, liberal publicists like James Wechsler treated 
the episode as a joke. In his New York Post column on 
October 15, 1963, Wechsler noted that Governor Rocke- 
feller, in an Indiana speech, had condemned the Kennedys 
for seeking to harass me. “After diligent inquiry,” wrote 
Wechsler, “it becomes my harsh duty to inform author 
Victor Lasky and his publishers that he is in no danger of 
prosecution, or any other form of federal harassment. It 
is also my gratuitous counsel that he cease transmitting the 
delusion of danger to Governor Rockefeller and his ghosts.” 

I had never transmitted anything to Rockefeller — the 
only major figure, incidentally, who at the time perceived 
the dangers inherent in the New Frontier’s efforts to throt- 
tle a critic. 

Wechsler also derided my claim that Immigration of- 
ficials had made inquiries of the Senate Internal Security 
Subcommittee for information in its files about me. 
“Lasky’s lament raised certain intrinsic doubts,” he wrote. 
“For one thing, he had been a ‘friendly’ witness before 
Mr. Eastland’s subcommittee (and) it would hardly seem 
plausible that anyone would view the subcommittee files as 
a source of derogatory information about so staunch a 
guardian of the republic.” 

But “for one thing” I had never been a “friendly” witness 
before the Eastland Subcommittee. At the time I had tes- 
tified only once before a Senate committee: representing 
the Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press 
Club of America, I criticized the Eisenhower administra- 
tion for its refusal to permit American correspondents to 
travel to Communist China. (The committee, incidentally, 
was headed by Sam Ervin of North Carolina.) 

“Nevertheless,” Wechsler continued, 

I have ascertained that a call was made. It was made 
by a zealous, lower-level agent in the Immigration 
Service who, having read of Mr. Lasky’s ardent labors 
in the cause of super-patriotism in the press notices of 
his historic work, believed he might some day be a 
valuable informant in immigration cases. 

This dedicated gumshoe called the subcommittee 
to ascertain where Lasky could be located in the event 
that his guidance were needed. He carefully recorded 
the data in his notebook. Out of this inquiry was born 



90 VICTOR LASKY 



Lasky’s tale of persecution which Governor Rocke- 
feller so carelessly embraced in his Indiana speech, 
thereby giving this episode national attention. 

And there you have it. It was all due to a “zealous, 
lower-level agent,” who wanted my address in case he 
would need my services as a “valuable informant in im- 
migration cases,” presumably involving foreign-born Com- 
munists. Well, one of the few former members of the 
Young Communist League whom I personally knew at the 
time was James Wechsler. However, as far as I know, he 
was born in this country and was therefore presumably 
ineligible for deportation. 

But the story demonstrates the lengths to which the Ken- 
nedy administration — or more specifically Robert Kennedy 
and his aides — went in seeking to cover up a blunder in 
dispatching gumshoes on the trail of a critic. 

A month after the Wechsler column appeared, Robert 
Kennedy’s press officer telephoned my publisher to relay 
the Attorney General’s concern about the “blunder” com- 
mitted by those “over-zealous” subordinates. The question 
raised was whether I would cease publicly voicing my ac- 
cusations on the matter. I said I would, provided that I re- 
ceive an official letter of apology. 

A few days later John Kennedy was murdered. The 
issue immediately became inconsequential. 

On June 12, 1971, J. Edgar Hoover informed me that 
Robert Kennedy had wiretapped my telephone for several 
weeks in the summer of 1963. The FBI had not done the 
job, he said. Rather it was done by “outside people,” whom 
he did not identify. In other words, long before the Nixon 
administration, the Kennedys had their own “plumbers” op- 
eration going for them. 

Some idea of how Robert Kennedy operated in these 
illegal enterprises has been provided by a Mafia “wireman” 
who claims to have worked for the Attorney General. He 
is Gerard M. Callahan, once described by the district attor- 
ney of Queens County as “a notorious criminal, highly 
publicized as the electronics expert of the underworld.” 
Which he indeed was. 

According to Callahan, he also worked for Attorney 
General Kennedy. An account of that work can be found 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 91 

in a little-publicized book which he wrote in collaboration 
with Paul S. Meskil, a top crime reporter for the New 
York Daily News.* Here Callahan tells how he was first 
summoned to Washington in the late fifties to confer with 
Bobby Kennedy, then chief counsel of the Labor Rackets 
Committee. Kennedy was working on a bill to make un- 
authorized wiretaps a federal crime and he wanted to tap 
Callahan’s expertise. 

After Kennedy was appointed Attorney General, he 
would contact Callahan from time to time. But on one 
occasion he asked “Cheesebox” — as Callahan was known 
in the underworld — to perform a “wire” job so secret and 
sensitive that the Attorney General said he could not en- 
trust it to the FBI. 

What Kennedy wanted done, he explained over lunch 
in his New York hotel suite in early September 1963, was 
the wiretapping of the press corps during his brother’s 
forthcoming visits to Newport, Rhode Island. The President 
was planning to join his family at Hammersmith Farm, 
the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh D. Auchin- 
closs, Jackie’s mother and stepfather. 

According to Callahan, Kennedy told him that the cor- 
respondents would be staying at the Newport Motor Inn 
and would be using a conference room as their headquar- 
ters. About twenty to thirty telephones would be installed 
and Kennedy wanted to know everything that was said on 
them. All Callahan would have to do was put in the taps. A 
friend would operate the recording equipment, which would 
be installed in a room near the motel. 

Callahan agreed to do the job and Kennedy gave him “a 
substantial down payment” to cover the costs of equip- 
ment and expenses. But, as Callahan told Kennedy, “there 
was one small fly in the ointment. I was out on bail in a 
criminal case. My picture had appeared in many news- 
papers. My mug shots were on file in several police de- 
partments, the FBI, and the security offices of phone com- 
panies and racetracks all over the country, including Rhode 
Island. If I got collared in Newport, my New York bail 
would be revoked and I’d be thrown in the slammer.” 

21"? Gerard M. Callahan, Cheesebox (Englewood 

Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974). 



92 



VICTOR LASKY 



“Well,” Kennedy said, “try to be as inconspicuous as 
possible and if you get into trouble call me at this number 
and I'll take care of it.” 

Kennedy, according to Callahan, also told him that his 
friend would contact him and, when the job was completed, 
pay him the rest of the money. 

Two days later the friend did call. They made arrange- 
ments to meet in Jamestown, Rhode Island. The friend, a 
man in his early forties, introduced himself as ‘ Jim. They 
then drove to Newport where that night Callahan went to 
work. After installing the taps on the cables leading into 
the press room, Callahan ran extension lines into a nearby 
house where “Jim” had installed his recording equipment. 
The tapes werq ready to roll. 

Callahan returned to New York. Later that September 
he received a call from “Jim” asking him to get back to 
Newport in order to remove the wiretap equipment. This 
done, “Jim” paid him the remainder of his fee for what 
Callahan described as “secret service to the Attorney 
General.” 

To this day Callahan says he does not know — or even 
care to know — just why Kennedy wanted the Newport taps 
or whether the President himself was aware of them. He 
just assumed that’s the way politicians operate. Which 
is why Callahan wasn’t surprised or shocked when nine 
years later he read about Watergate. 

Another person who had good reason to believe that his 
private phone in his Senate offices had been wiretapped by 
the Kennedys was Kenneth Keating. This was back in 
1962, when the New York Republican was warning that 
the Soviets were setting up an offensive missile site in Cuba. 
The Kennedy administration scoffed at the warning. The 
President himself said there was no such evidence. It took 
several months before he found it and we were eyeball to 
eyeball with the Soviet Union in a possible nuclear con- 
frontation. 

During this period I had several interviews with Keat- 
ing. The interviews always took place in the hallway out- 
side his offices. The political atmosphere was tense. The 
Kennedys were infuriated with Keating for revealing in- 
formation they considered politically embarrassing. Keat- 
ing talked to me in the hallway because, as he then told me, 
he had good reason to believe that the Kennedys were 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 93 

learning everything he was saying in the privacy of his of- 
fice. And, as he later said, he was unquestionably put 
under surveillance on orders of Attorney General Ken- 
nedy without a court order. 

Ironically Keating was beaten in his reelection try by 
none other than Robert Kennedy. It was a tough campaign, 
one of the toughest the Empire State had ever seen. A 
decade later, talking about the campaign with Mike Berlin 
of the New York Post, Keating made this observation: “I 
don’t want to make any allegations against people who are 
no longer here to defend themselves, but political espionage 
didn’t start with Watergate.” 



EIGHT 



In the early summer of 1975 Senator Frank Church de- 
cided against holding open hearings on the subject of the 
Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement in plots to 
assassinate foreign leaders. 

His decision, as chairman of the Senate Select Com- 
mittee on Intelligence investigating CIA malefactions, came 
as a complete surprise. For not long before, the Idaho 
Democrat had given every indication of being anxious to 
get to the bottom of the charges involving the CIA’s role in 
assassinations. In fact when the Rockefeller Commission 
refused to make public its file on the subject, Church said, 
“The American people are entitled to know what their gov- 
ernment has done — the good and the bad, the right and 
the wrong.” 

His resolve lasted only a few short weeks. Then he an- 
nounced that he did not want “to hold up the whole sordid 
story and telecast it to every corner of the world.” Hence 
the lid on public hearings of his committee. 

What had happened to change the senator’s mind? 

According to Republican sources on the committee, the 
evidence that had been amassed behind closed doors dem- 
onstrated quite convincingly that the Kennedy brothers had 
been up to their ears in, at the very least, assassination 
talk. And airing of such distasteful information would not 
accrue to the political benefit of a politician who, besides 
being a loyal Kennedy Democrat, had made no secret of 
his own presidential ambitions. Obviously Church believed 
that demythologizing JFK — by publicizing the fact that 
the President had discussed murder in the Oval Office — 
would not do his political fortunes much good. 

Which apparently is why this ardent advocate of the peo- 
ple’s right to know anything and everything about their 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 95 

government suddenly had a change of heart. Obviously 
there were things the people were not entitled to know. 
And what appeared to be in the making in that summer 
was another of those cover-ups for which Washington has 
become famous. This time, however, the cover-up appeared 
to be aimed at protecting the reputations of John and 
Robert Kennedy. 

Even those parts of the media which had always insisted 
on publicizing everything suddenly decided it wasn’t ab- 
solutely necessary. Thus columnist Mary McGrory, while 
calling for public hearings on all the evil deeds performed 
by the CIA, added tellingly: “Assassination can be left 
out for the moment.” For, as she had previously pointed 
out: “The unspoken threat in all this is that Church, a 
faithful ally of John Kennedy, might find himself in the 
end pointing a finger at the Democrats’ beloved victim of 
assassination.” And for Ms. Mary, who loved the Ken- 
nedys like her own, that would have been just too much. 

But as evidence accumulated and was pieced together, it 
became obvious to all except those who refused to see that 
official encouragement of high-level plotting against for- 
eign rulers reached its high point, not under Nixon or 
even Johnson, but under Kennedy. Indeed most of the 
data on this unsavory practice concerned the Kennedy 
years. 

The temper of the Kennedy years fitted tough actions. 
The new President had made it clear in his Inaugural 
speech — “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” 
— what kind of leader he expected to be: “. . . we shall 
pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, sup- 
port any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival of the 
success of liberty. ... In the long history of the world, 
only a few generations have been granted the role of de- 
fending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not 
shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.” 

Within weeks the new President was encouraging the 
largest military buildup in the nation’s history, going much 
further than even Eisenhower. At the same time he gave 
the go-ahead to the Bay of Pigs invasion, a project which, 
though already under way under Eisenhower, had been 
halted pending Kennedy’s approval. And when the in- 
vasion failed, largely because he got cold feet about using 



96 



VICTOR LASKY 



airpower to back up the anti-Castro forces on the beaches, 
Kennedy felt humiliated. As did brother Bobby, who be- 
came infuriated when Undersecretary of State Chester 
Bowles advised newsmen that he had opposed the ven- 
ture but had been overruled by JFK. Poking Bowles in the 
chest, Bobby snarled, “So you advised against this opera- 
tion. Well, as of now, you were all for it.” When Bowles 
threatened to resign and speak out, rather than take an- 
other assignment, Bobby warned him, “We will destroy 
you.” This was the same sort of warning Bobby delivered 
to Humphrey when the senator refused to support JFK’s 
nomination. “I’m going to get you,” Bobby shouted an- 
grUy. 

It was in this kind of macho atmosphere that various 
plots to “depose” Castro were discussed. Angered by Fidel’s 
victory over the U.S.-backed troops, the Kennedy brothers 
vowed to “get even” with the Cuban dictator. After the Bay 
of Pigs the President himself spurred the CIA into an im- 
mense covert war against Cuba. It required the services of 
thousands of men and cost as much as $100 million a 
year.* 

At the same time the Kennedys covertly ordered several 
U.S. agencies to find some sure means of “eliminating” 
Castro. The CIA had been thinking along these lines for 
some time. In fact the Agency had, even under Eisen- 
hower, worked with Mafia leaders Giancana and Roselli in 
devising plans to bump off Fidel. 

Bobby Kennedy learned all this himself in the form of a 
detailed secret memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover dated 
May 1, 1961. The director informed the Attorney General 
of the CIA’s dealings with Giancana and Roselli. The FBI 
had discovered the surprising connection in its own in- 
vestigation of the two racket figures. Though the Hoover 
memorandum never mentioned the words “assassination” 
or “elimination” (the euphemism employed in spy cir- 
cles), the director did refer to the CIA’s relationships with 
the mobsters as “dirty business.” According to sources 
quoted by The New York Times , Attorney General Ken- 
nedy jotted this note on top of the memorandum: “Have 

♦For details of the covert war, see the article “The Kennedy Venr 
detta,” by Taylor Branch and George Crile III, in Harper's , August 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 97 

this followed up vigorously.” The memo also bore his 
handwritten initials “R.F.K.” 

A year later Kennedy was given a more precise briefing 
on why the CIA was dealing with Mafiosi. Lawrence 
Houston, general counsel for the Agency from its found- 
ing in 1947, told the Attorney General about the planned 
effort to “dispose” of Castro. More recently Houston dis- 
closed that the briefing did not seem to surprise Kennedy. 
In fact he “didn’t seem very perturbed” about the plot, 
only about the CIA’s use of organized crime. “If you are 
going to have anything to do with the Mafia,” Kennedy 
said, “you come see me first.” 

As a result of this May 1962 meeting with Houston, 
Kennedy gave Hoover further details on the CIA opera- 
tion. The FBI chief then wrote a “memorandum for the 
files,” which thirteen years later was turned over to the 
Rockefeller Commission. In that memorandum Hoover had 
voiced concern that Giancana could “blackmail” the United 
States. Which, in fact, he attempted to do. But then he him- 
self was “disposed of” in what appeared to be a gangland 
slaying in 1975. 

It was in the summer of 1962 that Robert Kennedy con- 
tacted Major General Edward G. Lansdale and ordered 
him to begin work on a special- CIA project to develop 
various options for “getting rid of” Fidel Castro. In an in- 
terview with the Washington Star, Lansdale emphasized 
that the Attorney General had not used the word “assassina- 
tion.” However, he added, there could be no doubt that 
“the project for disposing of Castro envisioned the whole 
spectrum of plans from overthrowing the Cuban leader to 
assassinating him.” 

Kennedy had gone to Lansdale, then special assistant to 
Secretary of Defense McNamara, because he and the 
President had lost faith in the CIA following the Bay of 
Pigs. And he couldn’t have gone to a better man. In the 
late 1940s Lansdale had been an adviser to President 
Magsaysay of the Philippines, in which role he helped put 
down the Communist-led Huk rebellion. In the mid-fifties 
he served as a CIA political officer in Saigon, where he 
helped establish the Diem regime, and one of the men who 
admired and served under him in counter-insurgent work 
was none other than Daniel Ellsberg. Lansdale’s colorful 
activities in South Vietnam captured the imagination of 



98 



VICTOR LASKY 



several major writers; he is believed to be the model for 
“Colonel Hillandale” in the novel The Ugly American and 
for “Pyle” in The Quiet American . 

But there was no fiction about why Bobby went to 
Lansdale. The situation in the Caribbean was tense. There 
was growing concern in Washington about the increasing 
presence of Soviet military advisers in Cuba, as well as 
suspicion that they were installing an ICBM missile force 
on the island. Senator Keating had been sounding the 
alarm and the situation was most embarrassing for an ad- 
ministration already humiliated by the Bay of Pigs. 

Lansdale knew all of this when he relayed Kennedy’s 
orders directly to CIA official William K. Harvey — thus 
bypassing the Agency’s chain of command, including the 
director himself, John A. McCone. Lansdale instructed 
Harvey to prepare “contingency” plans for disposing of 
Castro because he wanted to know whether the United 
States had the capabilities for such an operation. 

Asked in 1975 by Washington Star reporter Jeremiah 
O’Leary if he checked on Harvey’s progress in carrying out 
Bobby Kennedy’s instructions, Lansdale said he did not keep 
abreast of the details. But, he added, he “was often in con- 
versation with President Kennedy and his brother.” At 
the time he was working on other plans for their consid- 
eration about how to cope with Cuban threats to the 
United States. 

Meanwhile a special cabinet-level group had been set 
up by President Kennedy to direct anti-Cuban operations. 
Titled “Operation Mongoose,” the group was headed by his 
brother. The name is revealing. A mongoose is a ferret-like 
mammal found in India. It is known, for its ferocity in 
attacking and killing the most poisonous snakes. 

Other members of the group included Secretary Mc- 
Namara; CIA Director McCone; Secretary of State Rusk; 
and McGeorge Bundy, the President’s national security ad- 
viser. The Rockefeller Commission obtained the minutes 
of an August 10, 1962, meeting of this group, whose of- 
ficial title was Special Group (Augmented), which clearly 
indicate that the subject of assassinating Castro was dis- 
cussed. Robert Kennedy was not listed as being present 
at this meeting. And though the notion of killing Castro 
was dismissed, plans were subsequently made to do just 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 99 

that. As Bundy, now head of the Ford Foundation, was 
to tell reporters in 1975, Kennedy officials often discussed 
“how nice it would be if this or that leader” were not 
around. 

As far as can be determined, there were two other 
meetings of the group planning Operation Mongoose. For- 
mer CIA chief McCone was to acknowledge that the 
group had “directed mischievous things against Castro, like 
infiltrating saboteurs, blowing up bridges and carrying on 
general confusion.” These activities involved the Penta- 
gon; U.S. navy ships, for example, were used to transport 
infiltrators (mainly of Cuban origin) to points close to the 
Cuban coast. Deeply involved in all of this was none other 
than Joseph Califano, then a Pentagon official, who later 
was to serve President Johnson and then as HEW Secre- 
tary under President Carter. 

That Robert Kennedy (and hence his brother the Presi- 
dent) well knew about the plot against Castro has been 
established beyond a reasonable doubt. This despite the 
pleas of Frank Church not to hold the Kennedys respon- 
sible for all those plots gestated in their tenure since, as the 
senator put it, the CIA had acted like a “rogue elephant,” 
that is, acted on its own with no responsible officials includ- 
ing the President aware of what the Agency was doing. 
Perhaps so; but highly unlikely. One of JFK’s best friends, 
former Senator Smathers of Florida, told the Church Com- 
mittee that President Kennedy had sought his reaction to 
a possible assassination plot against Castro early in 1962. 
And Rockefeller, after examining all the evidence, ob- 
served, “I think it’s fair to say that no major undertakings 
were taken by the CIA without either knowledge and/or 
approval of the White House.” 

Rockefeller quickly came under fire for pointing the 
finger at the Kennedys. White House reporters asked 
whether President Ford was displeased with the Vice 
President for that reason. The White House response was 
“No!” As John Osborne reported in The New Republic , 
“On the face of it, the President had no right to be dis- 
pleased and I’m told that he had no grounds to be. I’m 
also told to be very cautious indeed about absolving the 
Kennedys or falling in with the attempts of former Ken- 
nedy associates, notably Adam Walinsky and Frank Man- 



100 



VICTOR LASKY 



kiewicz, to suggest that Ford apologists are deliberately 
smearing John and Robert Kennedy in order to get at 
Senator Edward Kennedy.” 

Without knowing all the facts, both Walinsky and Man- 
kiewicz had been quick to deny that either Kennedy knew 
anything about the assassination plots. How they were so 
positive is p uzzli ng, since Mankiewicz in that period was 
serving with the Peace Corps in Lima, Peru, and Walinsky 
was barely an adult. Nevertheless they actually claimed there 
was “no evidence” that the brothers “were ‘involved’ in any 
assassination in any way.” At the same time they did not 
deny that anti-Castro plotting had taken place during the 
Kennedy years. And if such plotting had taken place, then 
President Kennedy most certainly should have known about 
it. To say that he didn’t is just about as damaging as to say 
that he did. 

The intended target, Castro, was well aware of who was 
out to “get” him. He has since claimed that his security po- 
lice foiled many similar plots. These attempts prompted 
the Cuban leader to warn the Kennedy administration that 
it would find itself in danger if it continued. In an inter- 
view with Associated Press correspondent Daniel Harker 
in September 1963, Castro delivered this warning: “We are 
prepared to fight them and answer in kind. United States 
leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to 
eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.” 

Two months later on November 22, 1963, the day John 
Kennedy was killed in Dallas, a high-ranking CIA official 
named Desmond Fitzgerald was meeting with a senior 
Cuban official named Rolando Cubela, whom the CIA had 
recruited as an important “asset” inside Cuba, but whom 
some believe was a double agent. Cubela, a Castro inti- 
mate, was given the CIA code name AM/ LASH. By Sep- 
tember 1963 AM/ LASH was proposing an “inside job” 
against the Castro regime, including Fidel’s assassination. 
And his talk about getting rid of the Cuban dictator was 
communicated to CIA headquarters on September 7, 1963. 
Later that evening Castro delivered his warning against any 
U.S. efforts to assassinate Cuban leaders via Harker. 

Previously Fitzgerald had been introduced to Cubela 
as a “personal representative” of Attorney General Ken- 
nedy. On that occasion AM/ LASH asked for an assassina- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 101 

tion weapon such as a high-powered rifle with telescopic 
sights. But no such rifle was immediately available. On 
November 22, 1963, Cubela was provided instead with a 
poison pen outfitted with a hypodermic needle. As a long- 
secret CIA report observed, “It is likely that at the 
very moment President Kennedy was shot, a CIA officer 
was meeting with a Cuban agent and giving him an as- 
sassination device for use against Castro.” 

Jack Anderson, who was the first to break the story 
of the anti-Castro plotting in January 1971, reported that 
Robert Kennedy was emotionally devastated by the possi- 
bility that the efforts he launched may well have led to 
the death of his beloved brother. 

What was still puzzling, according to Senator Richard 
Schweiker of Pennsylvania, was the fact that the War- 
ren Commission which investigated the Kennedy assassina- 
tion had been told nothing about the CIA plotting, even 
though the late Allen Dulles, then the Agency’s director, 
sat on the panel. Schweiker, who as a member of the 
Church Committee listened to all the witnesses on the sub- 
ject, raised the possibility that the President had been 
killed in retaliation for his anti-Castro activities. He called 
for a new investigation of the President’s death. 

And President Johnson, shortly after taking office in 
1963, discovered that, as he put it, “We had been operating 
a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean.” That was how 
he phrased it — several months before his death — to Leo 
Janos, a former aide. Janos, writing in the June 1973 issue 
of Atlantic , reported that LBJ had speculated that Ken- 
nedy’s assassination may have been triggered by a ven- 
geance-seeking Castro. Even more recently it was disclosed 
that Johnson believed that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, 
may have been “influenced or directed” by the Castro gov- 
ernment. As LBJ confided to Howard K. Smith, “I will 
tell you something that will rock you. Kennedy was trying 
to get Castro, but Castro got to him first.” 

The irony is that, if this was the case, the Johnson ad- 
ministration did everything possible to prevent the truth 
from coming out. The Warren Commission, formed at 
LBJ’s urgent insistence, operated under severe handicaps. 
From the beginning it faced persistent White House pres- 
sures to dispel conspiracy rumors. And it had hardly been 



102 VICTOR LASKY 

formed when Attorney General Katzenbach wrote each 
member to suggest that they publicize the FBI’s findings 
that Oswald was the lone assassin. 

Johnson also believed that his predecessor had given 
the go-ahead signal for the plots which led to the killings 
of the Dominican Republic’s Generalissimo Rafael Tru- 
jillo on May 30, 1961, and of South Vietnam’s President 
Ngo Dinh Diem on November 1, 1963. 

What Johnson in effect was saying, in so-called back- 
grounders, was that Kennedy had been working both sides 
of the Caribbean, by plotting Castro’s destruction as well 
as that of Castro’s most bitter enemy Trujillo. Never be- 
fore — or since — has there been an “Imperial presidency” 
in which the “disposal” of foreign leaders was so eagerly 
discussed and plotted. 

As Franklin Roosevelt once supposedly said of Trujillo: 
“He’s a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” The 
Caribbean strong-man had long been regarded as an ally 
of the United States. In fact Trujillo was an admirer of 
Kennedy; shortly before the 1960 election, his radio sta- 
tion had endorsed him for President. A broadcast over La 
Voz Dominicana , beamed to North America, described 
Kennedy as “a dynamic, angry young man who likes to call 
a spade a spade, a fighting man . . . aware of the dan- 
gerous Russian interference in the Caribbean. . . .” 

Half a year later the “dynamic, angry young man” 
headed an administration which gave material support to 
Trujillo’s enemies. Almost at the last minute the adminis- 
tration got cold feet about the plot involving Dominican 
army officers, and made an abortive effort to prevent the 
assassination. Apparently higher-ups in Washington, per- 
haps including the President, felt that a miscarriage of the 
plot would be too embarrassing, particularly on the heels 
of the Bay of Pigs. But it was too late. Forces unleashed 
by the administration could not be contained in the final 
hours. 

Trujillo came to a bloody end on a lonely coastal road 
six weeks after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He was speeding in 
a limousine toward San Cristobal, where he had planned a 
rendezvous with his twenty-year-old mistress. Suddenly a 
Chevrolet drew abreast. In it were four men laden with all 
types of small arms. Within minutes the Generalissimo was 
dead. The arms had been provided by American officials. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 103 

Ironically the whole story was published in convincing 
detail in the April 13, 1963, issue of The New Republic. 
But the article, written by Norman Gall, then a reporter 
for the San Juan Star , caused so little stir at the time that 
the editors of The New Republic had to be reminded of 
their considerable scoop fourteen years after the fact. On 
June 28, 1975, the liberal magazine reprinted its 1963 dis- 
patch, with the suggestion that members of the Church 
Committee read it. In an accompanying up-date, it noted 
that the original draft of the piece had stated bluntly 
that “President Kennedy knew of and approved plans to 
bump off Trujillo,” but that this reference had been deleted 
from the published version. 

According to The New Republic , other publications — 
most notably Time and the New York Post — also knew the 
whole story but did not print it. The magazine disclosed 
that the original draft of the Gall article had first been sub- 
mitted to Post columnist William Shannon, but that Shan- 
non didn’t buy it because, he said, the Post did not have 
an important enough audience. Instead Shannon passed the 
article along to The New Republic , suggesting that the 
reference to Kennedy be excised.* Which was precisely 
what was done, The New Republic today conceding that 
“relations between the press and President Kennedy, every- 
one now recognizes in retrospect, were too chummy.” 

If Kennedy had, in the words of The New Republic, 
indeed known “and approved plans to bump off Trujillo,” 
he was in direct violation of the law. As were all others 
involved in the plot. For under the Criminal Code, it is an 
illegal act if anyone within the United States “knowingly 
begins ... or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes 
the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval ex- 
pedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against 
the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or 
of any colony, district or people with whom the United 
States is at peace.” 

0 And the United States most definitely was “at peace” 
with the Dominican Republic, which, unlike Cuba, was 
considered a “friendly nation.” 

•Shannon, at present a columnist for The New York Times, now 
recalls that he thought back in 1963 that The New Republic was 
being excessively cautious in editing out the reference to Kennedy. 



104 



VICTOR LASKY 



Violation of the statute is punishable by a $3,000 fine or 
imprisonment for not more than three years or both. By 
now, the statute of limitations probably protects the plot- 
ters. 

Then there was the toppling of the government of 
President Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes of Guatemala. Accord- 
ing to Ydigoras, it was President Kennedy who ordered 
the coup which overthrew him in March 1963. The reason, 
he claims, was that Kennedy had to find a “scapegoat” 
for his failure of the Bay of Pigs. 

Now living in El Salvador, the former Guatemalan 
president claims that the attempt to terminate the Castro 
regime failed because of “the great indecisions of President 
Kennedy.” 

“As always,” Ydigoras told an interviewer, “he had to 
find a scapegoat, and that scapegoat was Ydigoras Fuentes. 
It was through Kennedy’s orders that my government was 
destroyed.” 

An ardent foe of Castro, Ydigoras had permitted the 
CIA to train hundreds of Cuban exiles as an invasion force 
within Guatemala. 

But an even greater scandal of the Kennedy adminis- 
tration in terms of its dire consequences was the manner 
in which the highest officials of the government at the 
time, including the President, were involved in the con- 
spiracy leading to the overthrow of South Vietnam’s Presi- 
dent Ngo Dinh Diem. 

Once again Kennedy and his associates definitely violated 
the law by plotting a coup against a friendly government. 
And once again a Kennedy-approved conspiracy led to 
murder. 

Diem’s death, which Kennedy had not directly planned, 
was a tragedy not only for South Vietnam but for the 
United States as well. It was, as the Wall Street Journal 
has observed, “the worst single mistake of postwar foreign 
policy. It was this act more than anything else that bogged 
the U.S. down in Vietnam.” For it left the young South- 
east Asian nation leaderless and it led to the overwhelming 
involvement of American troops in an undeclared war 
(which many liberals later insisted was not only immoral 
but illegal) to save South Vietnam from falling to com- 
munism. 

As President Johnson told reporters during a discussion 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 105 

of Vietnam in August 1967, “On instructions of ours we 
assassinated Diem and then, by God, I walked into it. It 
was too late and we went through one government after 
another.” 

In all, over 50,000 American boys died and several hun- 
dred thousand were wounded in what was to become the 
most unpopular war in the nation’s history. It was a conflict 
which led one President to decide not to stand for re- 
election and, more indirectly, caused another to resign — 
the first ever to do so. For what has become known as “Wa- 
tergate” had its origins in the emotional turmoil occasioned 
by that faraway jungle war. And, in a perverse way, it 
was the unraveling of Watergate which led to the destruc- 
tion of a strong presidency which, in turn, led to the 
final weakening of the American resolve in Vietnam. Who 
in his right mind could ever have conceived that the antics 
of a Jeb Magruder and a G. Gordon Liddy could have 
ultimately resulted in such catastrophe? 

Despite the efforts of Schlesinger and others to revise 
history, the fact is that Vietnam, in the final analysis, was 
Kennedy’s war. But it was one for which he originally 
did not want to take the credit — or discredit. Thus with- 
out public announcement or even approval of the Con- 
gress, the President covertly authorized the dispatch of 
thousands of American troops to South Vietnam. Arriving 
without fanfare, they soon began to die. In many ways 
“Nam” was a measure of JFK’s presumed machismo. In 
the backwash of his humiliation at the Bay of Pigs, he 
wanted to demonstrate to the “fucking Commies” that 
he could be tough, too. Having read Lansdale’s report on 
Vietcong successes, he called upon the army to establish 
a tough, counter-guerrilla unit which became known as 
the Green Berets. Not only did Kennedy keep a beret on 
his desk in the Oval Office, but he took a personal interest 
in the equipment which was to be used to wipe out left- 
wing guerrillas. At the same time he authorized covert 
operations inside North Vietnam itself. They were not too 
successful. 

All of this was carried on without the knowledge of the 
American people, through clever manipulation of the news 
and outright lying. At least that’s the conclusion of a study 
prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 
1972. Chairman Fulbright, commenting on the study 



106 



VICTOR LASKY 



covering the Vietnam decisions of the Kennedy presidency, 
said: “Executive secrecy and dissembling during the early 
1960’s is reminiscent of Lord Palmerston’s lack of candor 
with the British Parliament in initiating the Opium War 
of 1839.” 

And there was a great deal of dissembling on. the part 
of the Kennedy administration about the coup that led to 
Diem’s murder. The essential facts were reported at the 
time by the late Marguerite Higgins, but they were largely 
ignored until the publication of the secret documents now 
known as the Pentagon Papers and the recent uproar about 
the CIA. 

Any objective reading of the Pentagon Papers would 
confirm that the Kennedy administration was not only 
aware of the conspiracy of the Saigon generals to oust 
Diem, but encouraged it. Kennedy himself approved a 
cable sent to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon 
on August 24, 1963, ordering him to bring about Diem’s 
overthrow. This was at the time when the authoritarian 
activities of Diem’s brother and sister-in-law, the Ngo 
Dinh Nhus, were arousing concern particularly among 
correspondents stationed in Saigon. There were charges of 
corruption, Swiss bank accounts, and police brutality — all 
getting major attention in the American press. All of which 
further convinced the President that Diem and Nhu had 
to go, and the sooner the better. 

The cable, written by Assistant Secretary of State Roger 
Hilsman, began by saying that the U.S. “cannot tolerate 
situation in which power lies in hands” of Nhu and his 
wife. The key paragraph went on to declare in the stuttering 
language of cable-ese: 

“We wish give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove 
Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are prepared to 
accept the obvious implication that we can no longer sup- 
port Diem. You may also tell appropriate military com- 
manders we will give them direct support in any in- 
terim period of breakdown central government mechan- 
ism.” 

The cable had been sent over the signature of Acting 
Secretary of State George W. Ball. 

Ambassador Lodge, who received the message, told a 
congressional subcommittee in July 1975 that he thought 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 107 

the telegram “insane,” adding that its instructions were 
countermanded eight days later. 

But Ball, before the same group, defended the message. 
He said it had been brought to him by Hilsman and rov- 
ing Ambassador Averill Harriman. After which he tele- 
phoned President Kennedy, weekending in Hyannisport, 
“and he told me, ‘If you and Secretary Rusk think it’s the 
right thing to do, go ahead.’ ” Ball next called Rusk in New 
York, “and he wasn’t too enthusiastic, but he agreed.” 
Lodge may now believe the August 24, 1963, cable 
was “insane,” but the record shows that on August 29, 
1963, he sent this message to Rusk: “We are launched on a 
course from which there is no respectable turning back: 
the overthrow of the Diem Government. There is no 
turning back in part because U.S. prestige is already com- 
mitted to this end in large measure and will become more 
so as facts leak out. In a more fundamental sense, there is 
no turning back because there is no possibility, in my view, 
that the war can be won under a Diem administration. . . 

Lodge, of course, denies that he at any time recom- 
mended the “disposal” of Diem. But others in the pro- 
coup faction, notably Hilsman, most definitely envisioned 
the possible liquidation of the South Vetnamese leader with 
greater equanimity. In a memo to Rusk dated August 
30, 1963, Hilsman put it this way: 

“We should encourage the coup group to fight the bat- 
tle to the end and to destroy the palace if necessary to gain 
victory . . . unconditional surrender should be the terms 
for the Ngo family, since it will otherwise seek to out- 
maneuver both the coup forces and the U.S. If the family 
is taken alive, the Nhus should be banished to France . • . 
Diem should be treated as the generals wish.” 

The next day Rusk received another message from 
Lodge, reporting the collapse of the conspiracy because, as 
the ambassador put it, there was “neither the will nor the 
organization among the generals to accomplish anything.” 
At the same time Lodge sent even more disturbing news. 
It seemed, he reported, that Diem’s brother Nhu was 
secretly dealing with Hanoi and the Vietcong through 
the French and Polish ambassadors, both of whose gov- 
ernments were seeking a neutralist solution to the con- 
flict. Whether or not this was true was never firmly es- 



108 



VICTOR LASKY 



tablished. But it is significant that talk of a “neutralist so- 
lution to the conflict” sent shock waves of anxiety through- 
out the Kennedy administration. 

The administration did not know what to do next. “The 
U.S. found itself at the end of August, 1963, without a 
policy and with most of its bridges burned,” a Pentagon 
official noted. 

The National Security Council, in emergency session on 
August 31, could not reach a consensus. Hilsman, for ex- 
ample, argued forcefully against the United States ac- 
quiescing “to a strong Nhu-dominated government.” He 
said such a course of action would be bad for the Amer- 
ican image. 

Disagreeing were Vice President Johnson, Rusk, and 
McNamara. According to minutes, Rusk said that U.S. 
policy should be based on two points — “that we will not 
pull out of Vietnam until the war is won, and that we 
will not run a coup.” McNamara expressed approval of 
this view, as did Johnson, who added that he had great 
reservations about a coup, particularly since he had never 
really seen a “genuine alternative to Diem.” He also said 
“we should stop playing cops and robbers and get back 
to talking straight to the (Saigon government) . . . and 
once again go about winning the war.” 

But that was more easily said than done. For the next 
five weeks the administration could come up with no real 
policy. 

About this time the administration faced still another 
embarrassment. Madame Nhu, the glamorous “Tiger Lady” 
and hostess at Diem’s state dinners, arrived from Europe 
where she had been warmly received. But in Washington 
her presence was greeted with outright dismay. Apparently 
constrained by guilt and shame over the as yet unexecuted 
conspiracy, the official bureaucracy, from Kennedy down, 
refused to greet her. However her presence was acknowl- 
edged by the State Department when it called a meeting of 
editors asking that stories about her be buried among the 
truss ads. 

Meanwhile Kennedy began applying pressure by cutting 
off various kinds of economic aid to South Vietnam. 
Heartened by these developments, the Saigon generals 
once again began to plot Diem’s downfall. And once again 
Washington was interested. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 109 

On October 6, 1963, the White House sent this message 
to Lodge: “While we do not wish to stimulate coup, we 
also do not wish to leave impression that U.S. would 
thwart a change of government or deny economic and 
military assistance to a new regime if it appeared capable 
of increasing effectiveness of military effort, ensuring pop- 
ular support to win war and improving working rela- 
tions with U.S.” 

At the same time the White House warned the ambassa- 
dor and the CIA station chief “to preserve security” in 
their contacts with the conspirators in order to preserve 
“plausibility of denial.” The major CIA operative in South 
Vietnam, Lieutenant Colonel Lucien Conein, had been 
meeting secretly with such dissident generals as Duong Van 
Minh to discuss toppling Diem. Minh, who became known 
as “Big” Minh, had told Conein on October 5 that what 
the anti-Diemists wanted was “American assurances that 
the (United States) will not attempt to thwart” their plan. 

On October 30, 1963, McGeorge Bundy cabled Lodge 
that “once a coup under responsible leadership has begun 
... it is in the interest of the U.S. Government that it 
should succeed.” 

Two days later, on November 1, 1963, the coup began. 
The hypocrisy of the American position is illustrated by a 
poignant excerpt from a cablegram from Lodge to the 
State Department. It reported the last telephone conversa- 
tion between Lodge and President Diem: 

diem: Some units have made a rebellion and I want to 
know what is the attitude of the U.S.? 
lodge: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to 
tell you. I have heard the shooting, but am not ac- 
quainted with all the facts. Also it is 4:30 a.m. in Wash- 
ington and the U.S. Government cannot possibly have 
a view. 

diem: But you must have some general ideas. After all, I 
am a Chief of State. I have tried to do my duty. I want 
to do now what duty and good sense require. I believe 
in duty above all. 

lodge: You have certainly done your duty. As I told you 
only this morning, I admire your courage and your 
great contributions to your country. No one can take 
away from you the credit for all you have done. Now 



110 VICTOR LASKY 

I am worried about your physical safety. I have a report 
that those in charge of the current activity offer you and 
your brother safe conduct out of the country if you re- 
sign. Have you heard this? 

diem: No. (And then after a pause) You have my tele- 
phone number. 

lodge: Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, 
please call me. 

diem: I am trying to re-establish order. 

But it was too late. While fighting was going on at the 
palace, Diem and his brother Nhu escaped through a 
secret tunnel and made their way to Cholon, the Chinese 
quarter. The next day they surrendered to several armored 
units. Soon afterward, hands cuffed behind them, they 
were shot to death in the back of an armored car. 

President Kennedy was reported to be shocked and dis- 
mayed by the murders. But Madame Nhu, still in the 
United States, accused him of having incited the coup. Said 
the Tiger Lady: “If you have the Kennedy administra- 
tion for an ally, you don’t need any enemy.” 

“There could be no question,” Time reported in its 
November 8, 1963, issue, “that the U.S. . . . had effective- 
ly encouraged the overthrow of the Diem regime.” The 
magazine reminded its readers that “only a few weeks 
ago” President Kennedy, during a television interview with 
Walter Cronkite, “argued that the winning of the war 
against the Communist Viet Cong would probably require 
‘changes in policy, and perhaps in personnel* in the Diem 
Government.” 

Three weeks after the murders in Saigon there was the 
shocking murder in Dallas. And the Tiger Lady, bitter 
over the assassinations of her husband and her bfother- 
in-law, commented that justice had been served. Speaking 
off-the-record to reporters at his Texas ranch shortly after 
he took over the presidency, Lyndon Johnson said that his 
predecessor’s death could be considered “some kind of 
terrible retribution” for the deaths of Diem and Trujillo. 

His U.S.-approved coup successful, “Big” Minh became 
chief of state of South Vietnam. But, proving ineffectual, 
he quit after three months, going into exile in Thailand. 
In 1968 Marshal Thieu, by now the president, permitted 
Minh to return to Saigon where he espoused a neutralist 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 111 

line. In the final hours of a non-Communist South Viet- 
nam he was once again sworn in as the chief executive. 
But it was too late. The Communists refused to negotiate 
with him. Rather than put up any further resistance, “Big” 
Minh announced his country’s unconditional^ surrender. 
Within hours Communist forces had penetrated the center 
of Saigon. Finally the war was over. The United States 
was deeply humiliated. 

But questions created by the executions of Diem and 
his brother remain. From the beginning there was an 
attempt to cover up the complicity of the Kennedy admin- 
istration. On his return to the United States in June 1964, 
for example, Ambassador Lodge told The New York Times 
that “the overthrow ... of the Diem regime was a purely 
Vietnamese affair. We never participated in the planning. 
We never gave any advice. We had nothing whatever to do 
with it. . . . We had nothing to do with overthrowing 
the government, and it’s — I shall always be loyal to Presi- 
dent Kennedy’s memory on this, because I carried out his 
policy ” 

But his successor in Saigon, Maxwell D. Taylor, viewed 
the episode somewhat differently. In the course of an 
NBC Television interview General Taylor said in 1971: 
“One of the most serious wrongs, in my judgment, was our 
connivance at the overthrow of President Diem. Because 
regardless of what you thought of President Diem, we had 
absolutely nothing but chaos which followed. And it was 
that chaos that I inherited — perhaps Homeric justice — in 
the year I was Ambassador.” 

Asked who in Washington had connived in the plot, 
Taylor said: “Well, obviously, it has to be approved by 
the President ... I would be sure that no American ever 
wanted Diem assassinated, you understand. And it was 
certainly a terrible shock to President Kennedy when that 
developed. But the organization of coups and the execu- 
tion of a coup is not like organizing a tea party; it’s a very 
dangerous business. 

“So I didn’t think we had any right to be surprised 
when Diem and his brother were murdered.” 

President Nixon himself never had any doubt about who 
was behind the Diem murder. At a press conference on 
September 16, 1971, he said: “I would remind all con- 
cerned that the way we got into Vietnam was through over- 



112 



VICTOR LASKY 



throwing Diem and the complicity in the murder of 
Diem ...” 

Significantly Nixon’s remarks were accepted without the 
usual fusillade of criticism. Even his detractors, many 
of whom had been enamored of the New Frontier, realized 
that Nixon was absolutely correct in his evaluation. 

Nevertheless there was a ridiculous effort to gild the lily 
on this question during the Nixon years. Without Nixon s 
knowledge E. Howard Hunt, a retired CIA agent hired as 
a special consultant at the White House, forged a number 
of cables linking President Kennedy directly to Diem’s 
assassination. And in hopes of promoting an article on the 
subject, Hunt showed some of the phony cables to Wil- 
liam Lambert of Life. 

In his appearance before the Ervin Committee, Hunt 
testified he had been asked to forge the documents by 
Charles Colson, then a senior White House aide. But Col- 
son contended that Hunt might have “misunderstood some- 
thing I said to him.” 

Why phony documents had to be manufactured is diffi- 
cult to fathom, particularly since Hunt himself in his tes- 
timony noted that “on the basis of the accumulated 
evidence and the cable documentation,” which he had ob- 
tained from the State Department, it was obvious that “the 
Kennedy Administration was implicitly if not explicitly re- 
sponsible for the assassination of Diem.” 

Then, under questioning by Sam Dash, chief counsel of 
the Watergate Committee, Hunt made a sensational dis- 
closure. He testified that, in his examination of the cable 
traffic between Washington and Saigon at the time of the 
coup, he had discovered that “certain cables had been ab- 
stracted from the files maintained by the Department of 
State in chronological fashion. ...” 

It was a disclosure which (perhaps not so surprisingly) 
was overlooked by a media usually on the search for sensa- 
tions. But it did raise some interesting questions that, to 
this day, remain unanswered. Was a State Department in- 
quiry launched as to who was responsible for the ab- 
stracting”? If not, why not? Were the documents returned 
to the archives or are they considered permanently miss- 
ing? 

In all probability these crucial papers were destroyed. 
And one can only conjecture as to why this extraordinary 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 113 

act of “paper-burning” took place. The idea quite obvious- 
ly was to cover up the role of certain highly placed 
Americans in the undermining and murder of a foreign 
leader. 

Which is probably as vicious a piece of business as the 
forging of phony cables. 

The pattern that emerges from all the illegal actions per- 
petrated by the Kennedy administration abroad casts great 
doubt on the thesis that such activities should be condoned 
on the grounds of ‘‘national security” and anti-communism. 
The two foreign leaders who wound up dead were them- 
selves anti-Communists and American allies. The irony is 
that the Communist Castro, who nearly plunged this coun- 
try into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, remains alive. 

Still another irony: In 1975, while Castro was bitterly 
complaining (via Senator McGovern) that the United 
States had sought to kill him on numerous occasions, the 
French government expelled several of his “diplomats” on 
charges that they were involved with an Arab terrorist- 
assassination ring. 

Finally the Senate Intelligence Committee unveiled its 
“Assassination Report.” Given the committee’s leadership, 
and particularly a chairman who was panting to obtain 
the Democratic nomination for President, it should have 
come as no surprise that the Report would engage in verbal 
gymnastics to cover the indelible trail of the “men of 
style” who ruled the nation in the early sixties. The re- 
port was thick with partisanship. It was protective of John 
Kennedy. And it overreached in its conclusions involving 
Eisenhower and Nixon. 

Well, even by the material disclosed in the Report, it 
would appear that G. Gordon Liddy was a piker. Hit men. 
Mafiosi contacts. Kennedy and brother Bobby standing in 
the cabinet room “chewing out” a CIA official for “sitting 
on his ass and not doing anything about getting rid of 
Castro and the Castro regime.” The committee record 
bristles with such talk as “get rid of,” “knock off,” “elim- 
inate,” and “slashing” the Cuban dictator. But, as Rich- 
ard J. Walton has observed, because the committee was not 
able to find a “smoking gun,” it “brought the accusation 
right to President John F. Kennedy’s door” yet “did not 
open the door.” 

“In not quite accusing President Kennedy, the Com- 



114 



VICTOR LASKY 



mittee was aided by another factor,” wrote Walton on the 
Op-Ed page of The New York Times. “With Mr. Nixon, 
the press was in full cry, helping the public become con- 
vinced that President Nixon was guilty. But that has not 
been so with Mr. Kennedy.” 

Still, even the record could leave little doubt that the 
subject of assassination was discussed by or in the presence 
of Secretary of Defense McNamara, National Security Ad- 
viser Bundy, and Robert F. Kennedy, the President’s alter 
ego. And the evidence also clearly indicates that the CIA 
was operating on the logical assumption that the President 
wanted Castro removed by any means necessary. More- 
over there can be no argument that JFK knew what was 
going on. In his Oval Office conversation with Senator 
Smathers, the President had observed he was certain the 
Castro assassination could be accomplished. While all of 
this may not constitute a “smoking gun,” as Richard 
Walton pointed out, it adds up to “a pretty solid case.” 

Unable totally to exonerate President Kennedy, the 
Church Committee relied on what during the Watergate 
era was to become known as the everybody-does-it con- 
tention. Thus, through the art of juxtaposition, the clearly 
more prominent connection of J FK with assassination plots 
was deliberately diluted by references to Eisenhower and 
Nixon. 

According to the Report, the committee found evidence 
to permit “a reasonable inference that the plot to assassi- 
nate [Patrice] Lumumba [of the Congo] was authorized by 
President Eisenhower.” Then came this caveat: “There is 
enough countervailing testimony by Eisenhower Adminis- 
tration officials and enough ambiguity and lack of clarity 
... to preclude the Committee from making a finding 
that the President intended an assassination effort against 
Lumumba.” As it turned out, Lumumba was indeed killed 
in early 1961 by Congolese rivals. “It does not appear that 
the U.S. was in any way involved in the killing.” 

The “reasonable inference” was based on the uncorrob- 
orated testimony of Robert H. Johnson, who had been a 
notetaker at the only two NSC sessions at which Eisen- 
hower was present during his entire administration. Dur- 
ing one of those sessions, Johnson first testified: “President 
Eisenhower said something — I can no longer remember his 
words — that came across to me as an order for the assassi- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 115 

nation of Lumumba . . . there was no discussion; the meet- 
ing simply moved on.” Later in his testimony, Johnson 
said: “I must confess that in thinking about the incident 
more recently I have had some doubts.” 

Needless to say, that kind of evidence is less than com- 
pelling, and certainly does not support any “reasonable 
inference” — particularly in view of the fact that all Ei- 
senhower’s top advisers flatly and angrily denied the John- 
son story. Retired general Andrew J. Goodpaster, Ike’s 
chief military adviser, informed Church that there had been 
no single instance “within my knowledge and memory” 
of an assassination “course of action” proposed to or by 
Eisenhower either in or outside NSC meetings. Similar 
testimony came from Gordon Gray, Ike’s national security 
assistant. 

Equally weak was the strained effort to drag Nixon into 
the committee Report. What better way to fuzz up damn- 
ing evidence about the Kennedy administration than to 
haul in the name of the disgraced President? According 
to the Report, General Rene Schneider, commander in 
chief of Chile’s army, was killed while resisting a kid- 
napping attempt in October 1970. The previous month 
Nixon had ordered the CIA “to play a direct role in or- 
ganizing a military coup in Chile to prevent [Salvador] 
Allende’s accession to* the presidency.” But even the Re- 
port acknowledges that there was no assassination plot. 
There was not even a coup attempt, for Allende had not 
yet assumed power. Schneider’s death was totally unfore- 
seen and unexpected, and there were no U.S. orders to 
“get rid” of him, as the Report itself concedes. More point- 
edly the general was not even a head of state, as were all 
others who were included in the committee’s inquiry. 

The use of covert actions and funds to prevent Allende’s 
accession to power was hardly in the same league as putting 
out a contract on Castro with Mafia “hit men.” Moreover, 
though Church seemed to ignore the evidence, such covert 
actions had been begun under John Kennedy’s directions. 
As former CIA Director McCone put it to Fortune writer 
Charles J. V. Murphy: “As early as 1962 President Ken- 
nedy had decided in the National Security Council that the 
Agency should see to it that Castro’s agitators did not 
take Chile into the Communist camp under Allende’s ban- 
ner. In 1964, that decision was confirmed by President 



116 



VICTOR LASKY 



Johnson.” Later Nixon was to disclose that Kennedy and 
Johnson had expended\“approximately four million dollars 
on behalf of Mr. Allende’s opponents and had prevented 
Mr. Allende from becoming President in the early sixties.”* 
But probably the committee’s most closely guarded secret 
was President Kennedy’s link, albeit indirect, to the Mafia. 
Nevertheless the secret was hinted at on page 129 of its 
Assassination Report. “Evidence before the Committee in- 
dicates that a close friend of President Kennedy had fre- 
quent contact with the President from the end of 1960 
through mid- 1962. FBI reports and testimony indicate the 
President’s friend was also a close friend of John Roselli 
and Sam Giancana and saw them often during this same 
period.” According to a footnote: “White House telephone 
logs show seventy instances of phone contact between the 
White House and the President’s friend whose testimony 
confirms frequent phone contact with the President him- 
self. Both the President’s friend and Roselli testified that 
the friend did not know about either the (Castro) as- 
sassination operation or the wire tap case.** Giancana 
was killed before he was available for questioning.” 

And there the matter would have rested, had it not 
been for investigative reporters Dan Thomasson and Tim 
Wyngaard of Scripps-Howard, who discovered that “the 
President’s friend” was a beautiful girl who divided her 
time between the leadership of the underworld and the 
President of the United States. Though their story was of 
Pulitzer Prize dimensions, it was not picked up elsewhere 
— until Church blundered. Angered by what he considered 
leaks from within the Intelligence Committee, he and 
Senator Gary Hart set up a plumbers’ type operation seek- 
ing to discover the source, complete with threats of perjury 
and warnings of lie-detector tests. One wonders, in retro- 
spect, whether the senators would have been so concerned 
about leaks had the story involved Nixon. 

By then Bill Satire was onto the story. The columnist ac- 
cused the Church Committee of a “cover up” for neglect- 
ing to dwell at any length on the sex, age, professional ex- 

♦None of which, incidentally, was disclosed by either Schlesinger or 
Sorensen in their adulatory accounts of the Kennedy years. 

♦♦The “wire tap case” involved Giancana, caught in the process of 
bugging a motel room occupied by an unfaithful girlfriend who had 
been carrying on with a Las Vegas comedian. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 117 

perience, and gangland connections of Judith Campbell 
Exner. There no longer was any way of containing the 
story Church and his fellow senators (including some 
Republicans) had sought so desperately to bottle up. 

“Why should Church do that?” asked Nicholas von 
Hoffman. 

A partisan inclination to keep the coffin lid shut so 
that we may believe in dead Democrats? Or a dread at 
what may go on in people’s heads when they find out 
they have no heroes alive or dead? Church may have 
made the decision the lie must be preserved, not for 
votes, not for party advantage, but because he’s scared 
we can’t take it if we’re told whatever the hell went 
on with the Kennedys. 

Can we take not knowing? It was always whispered 
that Kennedy’s old man had gangster connections. 
And the son? Was he President or Hoodlum Prince? 
The question is out: Did Kennedy have the dignity of 
dying the victim of a madman or a political assassin 
or was Dallas just another gangland slaying? 

. . . Tell us, all you folks who’ve written so many, 
many books about those golden one thousand days 
when you all swarmed out of Harvard, Madison 
Avenue and Stamford, Connecticut, to electrify us 
with your good taste. Tell us again, please, but now 
put in about the gangsters and whatever else was cor- 
rupt, ruthless, cruel and illegal but which really hap- 
pened. No more Camelot, please. 

In faraway Austria Pierre Salinger told reporters that 
the Kennedy allegations were actually designed to wipe 
out Ted Kennedy’s presidential chances, and he sug- 
gested that the stories were being spread by “supporters of 
former President Nixon ... a case of sour grapes.” 

In San Clemente, meanwhile, Richard Nixon telephoned 
a friend to say that he was “terribly concerned” about the 
new revelations concerning John Kennedy. “They can only 
do further damage to the institution of the presidency it- 
self,” said the former President. There are some things, he 
suggested, that are better not known. 



NINE 



In his book on the “curious” death of Marilyn Monroe, 
Robert Slatzer tells of reading sections of a diary kept by 
the actress. There was one entry which read: “Bobby told 
me today, ‘I want to put that S.O.B. Jimmy Hoffa into jail, 
no matter how I do it.* ” 

Well, Bobby finally accomplished what often appeared to 
be the Kennedys’ major aim in public life — “getting” Hoffa. 
The Teamsters’ leader had long headed the brothers* 
“enemies list.’* For one thing Jack Kennedy had invariably 
made him a campaign issue. All through the 1960 cam- 
paign the future President would frequently wonder out 
loud why a Republican administration had not put Hoffa 
into jail. Hoffa’s civil liberties were of little concern to the 
Kennedys and, for that matter, to most of their supporters. 

Hoffa first came into the lives of the Kennedys in the 
mid-fifties during the course of the Senate hearings into 
labor racketeering. Bobby was chief counsel of the com- 
mittee headed by Senator John McClellan of Arkansas. 
Almost from the beginning Bobby’s pursuit of Hoffa had 
all the hallmarks of a personal vendetta. The Teamsters 
leader, unlike others questioned by Bobby, never relied on 
the Fifth Amendment, which would have permitted him to 
refuse to answer questions on the grounds that his testi- 
mony might tend to incriminate him. And this annoyed 
Bobby no end. 

But even more annoying was the way the cocky labor 
leader would beat Bobby down in any of their well- 
publicized arguments. Hoffa would deliberately go out of 
his way to irritate his inquisitor. As he told me in his 
Washington office in August 1966, “Oh, I used to love to 
bug that little bastard. Whenever Bobby would get tangled 
up in one of his involved questions, I would wink at him. 
That invariably got him. ‘Mr. Chairman,’ he’d shout, ‘would 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 119 

you please instruct the witness to stop making faces at 
me?’ ” 

Hoffa laughed and laughed. 

No doubt Hoffa’s “smartass” tactics did infuriate Bobby. 
As Professor Monroe Freedman, writing on the subject of 
“Prosecutorial Ethics” in the Georgetown Law Journal , 
noted: 

From the day that James Hoffa told Robert Ken- 
nedy that he was nothing but a rich man’s kid who 
never had to earn a nickel in his life, Hoffa was a 
marked man. When Kennedy became Attorney Gen- 
eral, satisfying this grudge became the public policy 
of the United States, and Hoffa, along with Roy Cohn 
and perhaps other enemies from Kennedy’s past, was 
singled out for special attention by United States At- 
torneys. This is, of course, the very antithesis of the 
rule of law, and serves to bring into sharp focus the 
ethical obligation of the prosecutor to refrain from 
abusing his power by prosecutions that are directed 
at individuals rather than at crimes. 

Bobby had many “enemies.” But none obsessed him 
more than James Riddle Hoffa, who had often humiliated 
him in public. There was to be no forgetting. And, in- 
evitably, Bobby was to have the last laugh. 

Hardly had the New Frontier been established on the 
banks of the Potomac when Robert Kennedy organized a 
special investigations unit within the Justice Department 
which had one major assignment — nailing Hoffa. 

The new group in many repects resembled one that was 
to be organized under Richard Nixon in 1971 — the so- 
called plumbers formed within the White House to con- 
centrate on “getting” Daniel Ellsberg. 

To head the “Get Hoffa” squad, the Attorney General 
named one of his old Senate investigators, former FBI 
agent Walter Sheridan. The squad, if anything, was a 
curiosity within the Department if only because Sheridan 
was not a lawyer. But Sheridan did have direct access to 
the Attorney General and, in the bureaucratic world of 
Washington, that meant clout with a capital C. 

Probably the best analysis of this unprecedented group can 
be found in Victor Navasky’s Kennedy Justice , a not un- 



120 



VICTOR LASKY 



friendly appraisal of Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney Gen- 
eral.* The “Get Hoff a” squad, wrote Navasky, 

was staffed by men whose experience for the most part 
was investigative rather than legal. ... Its men were 
on twenty-four-hour call. It had constant access to, 
and the interest and wholehearted support, of the At- 
torney General. It had free access to the files of the 
McClellan Committee. It was in touch with grand 
juries throughout the country. It had an undercover 
air of mystery about it. Its modus operandi was cloak 
and dagger. . . . And unlike every other unit of the 
Justice Department, which is organized around subject 
areas of responsibility, the Sheridan unit’s raison d'etre 
seemed to be not a subject area but a target: Jimmy 
Hoffa. Its relations with the FBI were highly irregular 
in that it received little or no cooperation from the 
top, yet Sheridan, an ex-FBI man, had a degree of 
line cooperation in the field that was, in some re- 
spects, unparalleled. He actually coordinated FBI 
agents with his own men — told them where to go 
when, and they went. . . . Since Sheridan was, in a 
sense, intruding on FBI turf, the situation was highly 
irregular. 

As Charles Shaffer, an eager squad member, said: “Some 
people say Kennedy was out to get Hoffa. Well, let me tell 
you, they are one hundred percent right. . . . And Bobby 
couldn’t wait. He asked when was the earliest I could 
start. I said two calendar months. He said be here Monday. 
I said I couldn’t possibly. I had cases to clean up, work, 
obligations, family. ... He said a week from Monday and 
that was that.” 

Almost anything went in this frenzied effort, even the 
violation of the Teamsters boss’s civil rights. A few journal- 
ists — they were few and far between — did perceive the 
menacing aspects of the anti-Hoffa crusade. Columnist 
Richard Starnes, for example, commented in The New 
York World-Telegram & Sun: “For all I know, Hoffa may 
be guilty of wholesale mopery. But is the Attorney Gen- 
eral entitled to dedicate the immense power of the federal 

♦(New York: Atheneum, 1971), p. 404. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 121 

government to chucking him in jail? I’ve followed Hoffa’s 
career with some passing interest, and all I can swear to 
of my own knowledge is that he makes lousy speeches. He 
may set fire to orphan asylums for kicks, but does this de- 
prive him of the right to due process?” 

And later on, writing in The Village Voice, Nat Hentoff 
recalled “Robert Kennedy’s transmogrification of the grand 
jury system (in) his pursuit of Jimmy Hoff a in the manner 
of an eighteenth-century legal adviser to the czar.” 

The pursuit was relentless. “I knew where Hoffa was 
twenty-four hours a day,” Sheridan bragged. Hoffa him- 
self was convinced, as he told me, that he was being fol- 
lowed everywhere by FBI agents, that his phones were 
tapped, mail opened, and that electronic listening devices 
were beamed on him from half a mile away. Moreover, he 
claimed, FBI agents posed as bellhops, desk clerks, maids, 
and doormen at hotels where the Teamsters held their con- 
ventions. The IRS combed his tax returns as well as those 
of other union officials. And anyone who did business with 
them found themselves subjected to IRS inquisitions. 

Most liberals, however, cheered when Hoffa finally was 
convicted on the kind of evidence which, if used against 
the likes of Dan Ellsberg, would have occasioned out- 
raged protests on the part of the American Civil Liberties 
Union. 

Robert Kennedy was so delighted with the guilty verdict 
that he threw a party for the “Get Hoffa” squad in 
Georgetown. His loyalists presented the Attorney General 
with a leather wallet embossed with the very words the 
jury foreman uttered when he announced the verdict. 

The campaign to “get” Hoffa involved both infiltration 
of the Teamsters and use of a personal friend as a paid 
informer — the sort of things liberals are usually so up in 
arms against. The informer was Edward Grady Partin, 
whose twenty-year criminal record included everything 
from breaking and entering to rape. After making a deal 
with Sheridan, Partin was sprung from a Baton Rouge, 
Louisiana, cell, even though the FBI considered him highly 
unreliable. Following his release, Partin insinuated him- 
self into Hoffa’s entourage, becoming a bartender, errand 
boy, bag carrier, and general factotum, and all the time 
telling Bobby’s boys what Hoffa was saying and doing. 
Eventually Hoffa was found guilty on a charge of jury 



122 



VICTOR LASKY 



tampering. Partin’s testimony, which proved critical in ob- 
taining the conviction, included details of Hoffa’s conversa- 
tions with his attorney — conversations which Hoffa quite 
correctly believed were confidential and whose revelations 
by a paid government agent could arguably be seen as a 
violation of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of right to 
counsel. Yet there was no public outcry at the time about 
the government’s “shoddy” tactics, nor were there any 
frenzied shouts about our liberties being imperiled. Rather 
the predominant reaction was that a somewhat unsavory 
labor boss with Republican links had gotten his just due. 

Even the Supreme Court, dominated by liberal justices, 
later upheld the conviction. With only Chief Justice Warren 
dissenting, the High Court rejected Hoffa’s contention that 
Partin’s presence in his camp was the human equivalent of 
an electronic bug. In his dissent, Warren noted: 

“Here the Government reaches into the jailhouse to 
employ a man who was himself facing indictments far 
more serious (and later including one for perjury) than 
the one confronting the man against whom he offered to 
inform. It employed him not for the purpose of testifying 
to something that had already happened, but, rather, for 
the purpose of infiltration, to see if crimes would in the fu- 
ture be committed. The Government in its zeal even as- 
sisted him in gaining a position from which he could be a 
witness to the confidential relationship of attorney and 
client engaged in the preparation of a criminal defense. 
And, for the dubious evidence thus obtained, the Govern- 
ment paid an enormous price. Certainly if a criminal de- 
fendant insinuated his informer into the prosecution’s camp 
in this manner he would be guilty of obstructing justice. I 
cannot agree that what happened in this case is in keep- 
ing with the standards of justice in our federal system 
and I must, therefore, dissent.” 

Hoffa himself, commenting in November 1974, con- 
tended that Watergate was tame compared to what the “Get 
Hoffa” squad did to nail him. 

Another aspect of the anti-Hoffa crusade is worth noting, 
particularly in view of Charles Colson’s later plea of guilty 
to a charge of obstructing justice, in that he had sought to 
defame Ellsberg by releasing unfavorable publicity about a 
man under indictment. Robert Kennedy had absolutely no 
compunction about arranging for derogatory articles on 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 123 

Hoffa to be published in such national magazines as Life , 
and he authorized “background” papers to be covertly fed 
to certain favored reporters. Obviously such tactics con- 
stituted, as Victor Navasky noted, “potential interference 
with the rights of the accused and even of the not-yet- 
accused.” For using such tactics in the Nixon years, Colson 
went to jail. 

Similar sordid practices were engaged in by Kennedy 
against his old and bitter foe, Roy Cohn. This was a feud 
which went back to the days when both were young, anti- 
communist, and rivals for the approval of the late Senator 
Joseph McCarthy. As Freedman had noted in the George- 
town Law Journal , from the moment Kennedy became At- 
torney General he singled out Cohn (along with Hoffa and 
others) for special attention by U.S. attorneys. After two 
trials on charges of obstruction and perjury in a stock 
fraud case, Cohn was acquitted. 

Later it was disclosed that Cohn had been the subject 
of a “mail cover,” a procedure whereby the Post Office 
scrutinizes the outside of envelopes to find out with whom 
certain individuals are corresponding. (In later years the 
Rockefeller Commission condemned the CIA for indulging 
in this practice.) At the same time it was disclosed that 
the Attorney General had been instrumental in placing an- 
other derogatory article in Life , entitled “Roy Cohn: Is 
He a Liar Under Oath?” Senator Edward V. Long, the 
Missouri Democrat who held hearings on the episode, said, 
“This thing smells to high heaven.” And the Chicago 
Tribune said that the practice of an Attorney General in 
promoting prejudicial magazine pieces about individuals 
under federal indictment called for “the fullest kind of in- 
vestigation by the responsible committees in Congress. It 
is one of the most serious charges ever made against a high 
officer of Government.” 

But by that time Kennedy was a U.S. senator, and he 
got away with it. The Democratic-controlled Senate com- 
mittee was not interested in following through. 

During his long, and eventually unsuccessful, battle to 
remain out of prison, Hoffa insisted that he had been con- 
sistently wiretapped and/or bugged by “Bobby’s boys.” But 
he could never prove it. The Attorney General himself 
emphatically denied any such activities. But there can be 
little doubt that, while he was with the McClellan Com- 



124 



VICTOR LASKY 



mittee, Kennedy was not above using wiretaps. To him 
they were necessary weapons — and he got away with it. 
For few civil libertarians seemed to care when he would 
open hearings with transcripts and/or recordings of private 
telephone conversations. In his memoir With Kennedy, 
Pierre Salinger narrates with evident satisfaction how he, 
as one of Bobby’s investigators, invaded a union official’s 
home in Seattle without a warrant to search for missing 
Teamsters records. The story, which also involves the se- 
duction of a maid, is funny, but it does raise a question as 
to the propriety or even legality of the tactics used by 
Bobby’s people in the pursuit of evidence. 

Kennedy’s denial of wiretapping in the Hoffa case was 
not bought by all newsmen. Walter Trohan, the veteran 
Chicago Tribune correspondent who had close ties to both 
Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover, stated flatly that 
Kennedy “set up an extensive wiretap group under his own 
command in the Department of Justice. The group was 
headed by three men. One of these was given a job in the 
Justice Department, a second was placed on the White 
House payroll of his brother, the late John F. Kennedy, 
and the third was put on the payroll of the Immigration 
and Naturalization Service.” 

In addition to wiretaping, a great deal of “bugging” — 
that is, eavesdropping with microphone-type listening de- 
vices — also occurred during the Kennedy years. Some of 
it came to light after Robert Kennedy had won election as 
senator. The revelations were to prove intensely embarrass- 
ing to Kennedy who, in seeking eventually to become his 
party’s presidential standardbearer, was busily cultivating 
the liberal community which, for the most part, had a de- 
cided distaste for electronic surveillance. 

Probably the most sensational case involved Fred B. 
Black, Jr., a former next-door neighbor of Lyndon John- 
son and a business associate of LBJ’s former “right-hand 
man” in the Senate, Bobby Baker. Black had been con- 
victed in a tax evasion case. Things looked pretty black for 
Black, he told me, until one day the maid who was clean- 
ing a hospitality suite he kept at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel 
told him that several “repairmen” had come in and in- 
stalled something near a lamp. Sure enough, it was a 
“bug.” Black called his attorney. 

This forced the Justice Department to move. On May 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 125 

24, 1966, Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall filed a 
memorandum with the Supreme Court which disclosed 
that early in 1963, at about the time a Missouri grand jury 
was listening to evidence against Black, the FBI had 
“bugged” his hotel suite. Accounts of Black’s conversations 
with his lawyers, among other things, were passed on to 
Justice officials. Other references in the taped conversa- 
tions had to do with Lyndon Johnson. These too were 
passed on to Justice and presumably to Bobby himself; at 
least Johnson thought so. Eventually the Supreme Court 
vacated Black’s conviction and ordered a new trial. 

Kennedy’s office issued a statement asserting that the 
senator had no knowledge of the “bugging” of Black’s suite. 
In effect he placed the onus on the FBI. 

Almost as if he were waiting for the opportunity, Hoover 
struck back by releasing documents proving that Ken- 
nedy had authorized all sorts of electronic surveillances 
in “both security and major criminal cases.” In a letter to 
Congressman H. R. Gross, the FBI director had this to 
say: 



Mr. Kennedy, during his term of office, exhibited 
great interest in pursuing such matters and, while in 
different metropolitan areas, not only listened to the 
results of microphone surveillances [bugging] but 
raised questions relative to obtaining better equip- 
ment. He was briefed frequently by an FBI official re- 
garding such matters. FBI usage of such devices, 
while always handled in a sparing, carefully controlled 
manner and, as indicated, only with the specific au- 
thority of the Attorney General, was obviously in- 
creased at Mr. Kennedy’s insistence while he was in 
office. 

Kennedy continued to deny that he knew what was go- 
ing on inside the FBI as Attorney General. But documents 
signed by Kennedy himself were there to dispute him. And 
then Edwyn Silberling, chief of Justice’s Organized Crime 
section when Kennedy reigned supreme, told Les Whitten 
that despite his claim to the contrary, Bobby was well aware 
of FBI “bugging” practices. Silberling recalled a meeting 
at which Kennedy urged the FBI to use more “technical 
equipment” to smash the rackets. The meeting took place 



126 



VICTOR LASKY 



in the Attorney General’s fifth-floor office. Among those 
present was Courtney Evans, the FBI’s liaison with Ken- 
nedy. “Everybody at the meeting knew (Kennedy) was 
talking about electronic surveillance — parabolic micro- 
phones, spike microphones, bugs — that is micro-transmit- 
ters — the whole thing,” said Silberling. 

Observing the well-publicized contretemps between Ken- 
nedy and Hoover was Lyndon Johnson. And there could 
be no doubt that the President was savoring every mo- 
ment of Bobby’s discomfiture. LBJ’s dislike of the junior 
senator was hardly any secret. For one thing, as he once 
informed Justice William O. Douglas, he had reason to be- 
lieve his own phones had been tapped. This apparently had 
occurred during his vice presidency and LBJ held Bobby 
responsible. 

At any rate in his January 1967 State of the Union mes- 
sage Johnson hit hard at all wiretapping and bugging, pub- 
lic and private, “except when the security of the nation 
itself is at stake.” Sitting sphinxlike, Bobby Kennedy was the 
only person within range of the TV camera who did not 
applaud when LBJ denounced electronic “bugging” and 
“snooping.” Of course LBJ’s fixation on the subject did not 
deter him from ordering “snooping” on his own political 
opponents. 

In the final weeks of his life Kennedy was again to be 
embarrassed by the wiretapping issue. He was then engaged 
in primary contests with Senator Eugene McCarthy and, 
with the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination at stake, 
they were going after each other hot and heavy. From 
out of the blue Drew Pearson broke the story that Ken- 
nedy, as Attorney General, had authorized the tapping of 
Martin Luther King’s telephones. According to the colum- 
nist Kennedy’s reason for giving the go-ahead to the FBI 
was that the civil rights leader had been “in touch with 
various Communists and was being influenced by them.” 

Asked by newsmen for comment, Kennedy refused to 
confirm or deny the story. Instead he sought to evade 
questions. But he was put on the spot in a television debate 
with his rival when McCarthy asked Bobby whether or not 
he had ordered the tap on Dr. King, as disclosed by Pear- 
son. Kennedy’s response was that as the nation’s chief law 
officer he had authorized wiretapping procedures in “na- 
tional security” cases; but that, by law, he could not dis- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 127 

cuss any such cases. To the uninitiated it could have 
sounded like a denial. 

The truth which Kennedy sought to evade, but which 
ultimately emerged, was that he had indeed approved the 
wiretapping of King as well as of other Black leaders. And 
the irony was that only weeks before his debate with Mc- 
Carthy, Kennedy had chartered a plane to return King’s 
body from Memphis, where the civil rights leader had been 
slain, to his home city of Atlanta. The episode had been 
well publicized, as was Kennedy’s appearance at the 
funeral. 

Before long Kennedy himself was dead. But his legacy 
lives on. As Nicholas von Hoffman put it in the Washing- 
ton Post just as Watergate began to break wide open, 

Is the Watergate bugging any more of an affront to 
civil liberties than the Martin Luther King bugging? 
That was done under John Kennedy, and ordered by 
his brother, an Attorney General who was as savage 
in his own way as John Mitchell was in his. Can the 
Kennedy use of the FBI to intimidate the U.S. Steel 
Corp. into a price rollback be defended by anyone 
with a respect for our basic laws? 

Except for mavericks like Von Hoffman, few liberals 
were overly concerned about the violations of the rights of 
a major steel corporation. Nor did many liberals rush to 
the defense of Otto F. Otepka when the State Department 
announced its intention to dismiss him as its chief security 
evaluations officer on charges he had given confidential 
documents to the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. 
Otepka remained on the payroll, however, during a long 
series of appeals. In March 1969, after years of bitter strug- 
gle to preserve his honor as a dedicated civil servant, Presi- 
dent Nixon appointed him to a $36,000-a-year job with the 
Subversive Activities Control Board.* 

The Otepka case was a stunner, for it involved harass- 
ment, illegal bugging, wiretapping, personal surveillance, 
and perjured confessions. But liberal anger that time around 

♦The full, authoritative account of this case is contained in The 
Ordeal of Otto Otepka by William J. Gill (New Rochelle, N.Y.2 
Arlington House, 1969). 



128 



VICTOR LASKY 



was reserved for the victim of these governmental abuses, 
and not their perpetrators. 

Otepka was a career official who had been subpoenaed 
to testify before the Senate subcommittee on certain laxities 
in the administration of the State Department’s employee 
security program. A longtime expert in his field, Otepka 
gave his frank opinion on a high Kennedy appointee and 
refused to change his report. In so doing, he aroused the 
wrath of Robert Kennedy with whom he had previously 
discussed the case. From that moment he was a marked 
man. 

Refusing to capitulate to all sorts of pressures, Otepka 
stood his ground. When State Department higher-ups flatly 
denied his allegations, Otepka produced documents from 
his files which effectively corroborated his testimony. As 
noted in the subcommittee’s report: “Mr. Otepka furnished 
copies of the document ... to illustrate security pro- 
cedures and to prove that his superior had lied under oath 
to this subcommittee concerning security procedures . . . 
the State Department was trying to hide a new policy of 
phasing out effective security procedures. . . . Quite sim- 
ply, Otepka and a small band of associates were in the 
way.” 

There began a campaign of persecution with few par- 
allels in the annals of the civil service. Branded an “enemy” 
of the Kennedy administration, Otepka was demoted from 
his job, deprived of a portion of his staff, and moved out 
of his office. Ultimately he was placed under “criminal 
charges” on the extraordinary contention that by furnish- 
ing a Senate committee with data concerning lax State De- 
partment security practices, he himself had violated De- 
partment security practices. 

A “Get Otepka” squad had done its dirty work. Con- 
sisting of State Department officials, the group included 
Elmer Dewey Hill, David I. Belisle, and John F. Reilly — 
the last a former Justice Department lawyer who got his 
job at State on the recommendation of Bobby’s executive 
assistant. 

Later it was learned that, on his arrival at State, Reilly 
had been briefed about the nettling problem of “leaks” to 
Senate investigators. His mission was to stop them. As he 
was quoted as saying at the time, “I was sent over here to 
do a job and by God I’m going to do it.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 129 

And by God he certainly tried. The measures taken by 
the Kennedy “plumbers” included almost every form of 
illegality in the book, such as breaking into Otepka’s office, 
cracking open his office safe, ransacking his trash bag, bug- 
ging his room, and wiretapping his phones. But when ques- 
tioned about all of this under oath, Reilly, Hill, and Belisle 
not only made broad categorical denials that they had 
ever done such things; they denied that they ever knew 
about them. 

However, when they learned the subcommittee had inde- 
pendent evidence of their crimes, the witnesses switched 
their story. Hill, playing much the same role as did John 
Dean in the Watergate controversy, testified as follows: 
“Mr. John F. Reilly, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Se- 
curity, asked me to explore the possibility of arranging 
some way to eavesdrop on conversations taking place in 
Mr. Otepka’s office. Mr. Reilly explained to me that he 
would only consider such a technique if other investigative 
methods failed. . . . That evening Mr. Schneider and I 
altered the existing wiring in the telephone in Mr. Otepka’s 
office. We then established a circuit from Mr. Otepka’s 
office to the Division of Technical Services Laboratory by 
making additional connections in the existing telephone 
wiring system. . . .” And he went on and on and on. 

Reilly and Belisle eventually admitted that they had wire- 
tapped Otepka’s phone as well as bugged his office. But 
they insisted that their previous denials under oath had 
been justified because “static” on the wire made their efforts 
“ineffective.” Yet even this explanation was false. For Hill 
later admitted that he, Reilly, and Belisle had listened to 
about a dozen recordings made of Otepka’s conversations. 
Hill also testified that he had given the recordings to an 
unidentified man who met him in a State Department cor- 
ridor. But Reilly later testified he had no recollection of the 
recordings or even such conversations with Hill. 

In the face of all this criminality, including lyin| under 
oath, the Justice Department under Kennedy refused to 
take any action such as prosecuting outright perjurers. 
And what was the liberal reaction? Zilch. The media 
couldn’t have cared less; there were no cries for the in- 
carceration of the culprits, impeachment or, at the very 
least, resignation. 

What did happen to those worthies? Secretary of State 



130 



VICTOR LASKY 



Rusk, under whom all these shenanigans had taken place, 
forced the resignation of Elmer Dewey Hill, who was the 
first to tell all. But the Secretary was a lot more lenient with 
Belisle, who was not only kept at State but actually pro- 
moted. Reilly, the Howard Hunt of the pre-Watergate 
“plumbers,” was permitted to resign without a blemish re- 
corded in his file, and somehow the administration ar- 
ranged for this wiretapper to be given a well-paying FCC 
job as a hearing examiner. 

The big joke is that, in more recent testimony before a 
Senate subcommittee, Dean Rusk voiced strong feelings 
against some of the tactics employed by the Nixon admin- 
istration in the name of national security. The former Sec- 
retary also flatly denied that he knew anything about eaves- 
dropping or wiretapping of any State Department employ- 
ees during the Kennedy or Johnson administrations. He 
said he would have quit as Secretary had such evil things 
been done. 

But, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the 
Cowles newspapers, Clark Mollenhoff, pointed out, it was 
“a burst of self-righteousness totally out of character with 
(Rusk’s) active role in the cover-up in the Otepka case. 
. . . Thousands of pages of testimony ... on the infamous 
ordeal of Otepka demonstrate that the Secretary of State 
knew of the controversy over the illegal wiretapping and 
night entry of Otepka’s safe. Rusk also took an active part 
in covering up for the indiviudals engaged in the shameful 
efforts to frame Otepka. . . .” 

Mollenhoff accused Rusk of either having 

an exceedingly bad memory or (having) engaged in 
an intentional misrepresentation to the Congress. . . • 
Repetition of the documented story of Rusk’s respon- 
sibility in the Otepka matter isn’t intended to minimize 
crimes of Nixon administration officials. Rather, it dem- 
onstrates that lack of integrity in high places is not 
a characteristic unique to this administration. 

Incidentally,, it also points up that important seg- 
ments of the press and television were considerably 
less aggressive in dealing with such evidence of abuse 
of executive power when it was done by officials of 
the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 131 

Throughout Otepka’s lengthy ordeal the major organs 
of the Eastern Establishment, most notably The New York 
Times and the Washington Post , treated him like some 
sort of leper who threatened the survival of democracy. 
The Times unloosed several bitter attacks on Otepka as 
being not only reprehensible but dangerous, observing on 
one occasion that “orderly procedures are essential if the 
vital division of power between the legislative and execu- 
tive branches is not to be undermined. The use of ‘under- 
ground* methods to obtain classified documents from low- 
er-level officials is a dangerous departure from orderly 
procedures.’* 

A decade later this very same newspaper won the Pulit- 
zer Prize for receiving and publishing highly classified 
documents siphoned from the Pentagon; and it is the same 
newspaper which pounded the Nixon administration for 
doing to Ellsberg exactly what the Kennedy administration 
did to Otepka. When it had its own ideological chore to 
perform, the value of “orderly procedures” was somehow 
diminished. Obviously the Times ' s logic was affected by the 
fact that Otepka was a political conservative, while Ells- 
berg was a man whose deeds conformed with the Times ' s 
list to the left. 

At the height of the controversy the Washington Post 
too charged that what Otepka did was “unlawful” and “un- 
conscionable.” The paper explained that “he gave classified 
information to someone not authorized to receive it ... he 
had no authority to give it. . . . If any underling in the 
State Department were free at his own discretion to dis- 
close confidential cables or if any agent of the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation could leak the contents of secret 
files whenever he felt like it, the executive branch of gov- 
ernment would have no security at all.” 

The irony, of course, is that during its coverage of 
Watergate the Post relied on what it termed a high-level 
source within the government which it affectionately nick- 
named “Deep Throat.” And won a Pulitzer Prize for that 
coverage. 



TEN 



On April 1, 1975, George B. Parr, the Democratic boss 
of Duval County, Texas, was found dead in a pasture of 
his south Texas ranch with a bullet wound in his head. 
Though no note was found, a local justice of the peace 
ruled that the death had been a suicide. Parr, a former 
millionaire oilman, banker, and deputy sheriff, had been 
facing a prison term for income tax evasion. 

Except for a dispatch in The New York Times the story 
of Parr’s death received little attention in the nation’s 
media. Yet his was a name to remember, especially at a 
time of furor over electoral shenanigans. For without 
George Berham Parr, Lyndon Baines Johnson would not 
have become President of the United States. 

The year was 1948. Johnson, an obscure congressman 
opposed to President Truman’s civil rights program and a 
supporter of what he called “the anti-Communist Taft- 
Hartley labor bill,” was running for the Democratic Senate 
nomination in Texas. In those days obtaining the Dem- 
ocratic nomination was tantamount to election in the Lone 
Star State. 

Johnson ran against the Dixiecrat governor Coke Steven- 
son and several others. When the returns were in, the 
popular Stevenson had 71,000 more votes than Johnson but 
he lacked a majority in the crowded field. This necessitated 
a runoff. In the runoff Johnson again trailed Stevenson — 
or so everyone thought. But then Parr came into the pic- 
ture. 

To understand the significance of this, one must under- 
stand the significance of Parr. This dapper little man with 
the cold green eyes ruled three counties in southeast Texas 
with an iron hand — Duval, Jim Wells, and Zapata. This 
oil-rich brush country was an area inhabited largely by 
Mexican- Americans. Parr paid their poll taxes, got them 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 133 

jobs, was generous with gifts to their sick and needy, and 
voted them like cattle. Parr also collected large payoffs 
from construction companies doing business in his baili- 
wick, houses of ill repute and moonshine and gambling 
businesses. In 1936, he went to prison on an income tax 
rap. 

Parr, who rarely appeared in public unless surrounded 
by tough, unshaven Mexican pistoleros , never let any of 
his “constituents” forget who was El Jefe, It literally was 
suicide to oppose him; and hardly anyone tried. As the 
Times noted, “Only Federal agents and Texas rangers ever 
successfully questioned his authority. Others who did took 
their lives in their hands. At least two men were shot to 
death by deputy sheriffs loyal to Parr.” Other brutal deaths 
were associated with his volatile career. 

The significance of all this lies in the fact that Parr 
favored Johnson in the 1948 runoff. Days after the polls 
had closed, a “correction” of the vote came in from 
Precinct 13 in the hamlet of Alice in Jim Wells County 
on the Mexican border. The “correction” gave Johnson 
202 votes which local election officials claimed they had 
somehow previously overlooked. But it was enough to 
give Johnson the Democratic nomination by eighty-seven 
votes. 

Parr had come through. The self-styled “Duke of 
Duval” had once again come up with enough votes to get 
his man in. And Coke Stevenson was furious. 

“I was beaten by a stuffed ballot box,” he told reporters. 
“And I can prove it.” 

Parr laughed and called Stevenson a poor loser. “In 
previous elections,” El Jefe noted, “the district has gone 
for Stevenson with as much enthusiasm as it has gone 
against him in this year’s Senate election. I never heard 
a complaint from him then about the bloc vote in Duval 
County.” 

Charging fraud, the governor appealed to the federal 
court for redress. His lawyers produced evidence clearly 
demonstrating that “voters” from the graveyard and from 
across the border in Mexico had been recorded for John- 
son. The lawyers also produced a couple of courageous 
Chicanos who testified that Parr had voted their names 
without their knowledge. 

After hearing all the arguments. Judge T. Whitfield 



134 



VICTOR LASKY 



Davidson was moved to comment: “There has not one 
word of evidence been submitted [sic] to disprove this 
plaintiff’s claim he has been robbed of a seat in the United 
States Senate.” 

At the same time Davidson issued an injunction deny- 
ing Johnson a place on the ballot. 

As a result there was great consternation among leading 
Democrats in Washington. Not that the liberals or even 
Truman particularly loved Johnson. If anyone followed a 
Southern line, it was he. But they much preferred him to 
his more outspoken Dixiecrat opponent. Which is precisely 
what Truman told Johnson when the President barn- 
stormed through Texas late in September. 

Meanwhile Washington lawyer Abe Fortas took charge 
of the legal maneuvers to save Johnson’s “election.” In 
these he was capably assisted by none other than Joe Rauh, 
an ultra-liberal then most active in the .affairs of Americans 
for Democratic Action. (In years to come, Rauh was to 
emerge as one of LBJ’s more vociferous critics.) 

One day after Judge Davidson reopened his hearing in 
Fort Worth, Fortas went to see Associate Justice Hugo 
Black, a former Ku Klux Klansman-turned-civil libertarian. 
It was their mutual interest in liberal causes which had 
made them good friends. They spent considerable time dis- 
cussing Lyndon’s election problem. And Fortas got what 
he wanted. 

On September 28, 1948, Black issued an order staying 
the Davidson injunction. This meant that Johnson’s name 
could appear on the November ballot. Black’s order de- 
clared that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction over state 
elections. In effect Black had ruled that Johnson would be 
the next senator from Texas. 

Adjourning his court, an angered Judge Davidson de- 
nounced the Black order as “unduly hasty and probably 
unlawful” — which it most certainly was. The judge noted, 
for example, that the Stevenson-Johnson controversy had 
involved a federal office. Then he pointed out that only 
four years previously, Justice Black had voted exactly the 
opposite when the High Court ruled that federal courts 
could indeed interfere to see that Negroes were not barred 
from voting in Texas primaries. 

But the ball game was over. 

Johnson, however, faced one more hurdle on his way 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 135 

to the Senate. So bitter were the protests of the Stevenson 
supporters that the Senate voted to look into the contested 
primary. But Senate investigators soon discovered that most 
of the ballots in Duval, Jim Wells, and Zapata counties — 
the “Duke’s” bailiwick — had been destroyed. Who de- 
stroyed them? Well, according to Parr, some illiterate 
Mexican janitors must have thought they were trash ready 
to be burned. 

The big Senate probe was over even before it began. 

Meanwhile Truman was barnstorming Texas in what 
appeared to be a forlorn pursuit of the presidency. When 
his train stopped at San Antonio, Parr got aboard to spend 
a half-hour with the President. Immediately there was 
speculation that Parr would get a presidential pardon for 
an old income tax conviction. 

Truman, of course, was no stranger to stuffed ballots. 
In fact he could never have become President if he had 
not scraped victory out of the 1934 Senate primary in 
Missouri with the help of 50,000 fraudulent votes from 
Tom Pendergast’s Kansas City machine. And years later 
when Boss Pendergast passed on to his just reward, Truman 
flew to the funeral. The President ignored the criticism. He 
knew it would soon blow over. 

So pleased was Truman with Parr’s good work on be- 
half of the team that, shortly after his election, he did re- 
ward the “Duke of Duval” with a pardon. And when Parr 
again was found guilty of income tax evasion, Fortas 
argued the case all the way to the Supreme Court and 
got the “Duke” off on a technicality. 

Eventually a grateful Lyndon Johnson nominated Fortas 
as a justice on the Supreme Court. 

Stevenson never forgot nor forgave. Not only had he 
made broadcasts urging his supporters to vote for John- 
son’s Republican opponent in the 1948 contest, but subse- 
quently he backed LBJ’s opponent in the 1954 election. In 
1960, rather than support a ticket with Johnson on it, he 
supported Nixon in the presidential race. 

“I am not a brass collar Democrat any more,” he told 
an interviewer in 1964, sixteen years after the fateful con- 
test with Lyndon Johnson. “I don’t feel as kindly towards 
the Democrats as perhaps I should. This may sound like 
sour grapes, but when they put the stamp of approval on 
the way the office of U.S. Senator was lost to me. . . 



136 



VICTOR LASKY 



The law finally caught up with Parr. In 1974 he was 
sentenced to ten years at hard labor and a fine of $14,000 
for failing to list $287,000 in taxable income between 
1966 and 1969. A year after this his appeal was rejected 
by the Court of Appeals. The “Duke of Duval” had run 
out of all his options. No longer did he have friends in 
high places who could come to his rescue. A week later 
he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, a 
bullet wound in his right temple. The man whose political 
power helped send Lyndon Johnson to the Senate in 1948 
was dead. 

So exhilarated was Lyndon Johnson on reaching the po- 
litical mountaintop in 1948 that, according to one biog- 
rapher, he told this story about his first Senate victory: 

Little Manuel was sitting on a curbstone, crying bitter 
tears. Another Mexican, happening along, asked, “What’s 
the trouble with you, Manuel?” 

“My father was here last Saturday and he did not come 
to see me.” 

“But, Manuel, your father has been dead ten years.” 

“That’s true,” Manuel sobbed. “But he was here last 
Saturday and he voted for Lyndon Johnson, but he did 
not even come to see me.” 

The joke lost its humorous aspects for Johnson when, on 
taking his seat in the Senate, he began to be twitted as 
“Landslide Lyndon.” It was a sobriquet which was to 
haunt him throughout his political career. And the fact 
that President Kennedy also called him “Landslide” in pri- 
vate conversation irritated LBJ no end. But there was 
little he could do about it. As Vice President, he could 
only grin and bear it. 

As time passed, LBJ was to become even more irritated 
about rumors concerning his wealth. And he went out of 
his way to discourage newspaper stories about how he came 
to fortune. The fact remains, however, that when the tall, 
gangly Texan first went to Congress in the thirties, he 
was a poor boy, dirt-poor. But, after a lifetime in Wash- 
ington, Johnson died leaving a fortune estimated at be- 
tween $14 and $20 million. In other words the Johnsons 
had been among the wealthiest families ever to occupy the 
White House. 

How Johnson managed to amass such great wealth with- 
out ever leaving government service still raises questions. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 137 

In fact, it became a campaign issue during the 1964 presi- 
dential contest. A few publications did try to dig out the 
facts. But for the most part the media ignored the story. 
There was no Watergate press corps prying into LBJ’s 
affairs. 

It appears that the keystone of the Johnson fortune was 
the family ownership of radio-TV station KTBC in Austin, 
a communications combine which for a long time had a 
television monopoly in that city and environs. To what 
extent this monopoly enjoyed its extraordinary prosperity 
because of favorable rulings by the Federal Communica- 
tions Commission, as Louis Kohlmeier wrote in the Wall 
Street Journal , would take “a subtle scientist to measure 
precisely.” The question raised by Kohlmeier’s Pulitzer 
Prize-winning articles in 1964 was how much Johnson’s po- 
litical prominence as Senate Majority Leader may have 
played in the FCC’s exceptionally beneficent rulings. It 
was a good question but, needless to say, one that was 
never explored by any congressional body. 

In December 1963, shortly after Johnson was sworn in 
as President, the FCC came through again for the John- 
sons. This time the regulatory agency rejected an applica- 
tion by a community antenna television service which 
threatened KTBC’s monopoly in Austin. And the question 
was raised whether the FCC, in making its decision, could 
not have been influenced by the knowledge that the Presi- 
dent was involved. The Johnson response to what after all 
was a striking conflict-of-interest situation was to place all 
the broadcasting properties in the control of a blind trust. 
But the propriety of this arrangement was also questioned 
after disclosure that the trustee selected by the Johnsons 
was an old friend who visited them frequently at the White 
House. 

Johnson’s public utterances on his finances were few 
and far between. And when he did refer to them at two 
press conferences in April 1964 he was far from being can- 
did. Thus, looking reporters in the eye, he could say, “I 
have no interest in any television any place.” On another 
occasion he claimed, “I don’t have any interest in govern- 
ment-regulated industries of any kind and never have had.” 
Technically, of course, he was being accurate. The stock 
in the broadcast properties was held in the name of his 
wife and two daughters. 



138 



VICTOR LASKY 



So sensitive was he about discussions of his finances that 
he sought to head off publication by Life of an article on 
the subject. Despite a personal appeal by the President, the 
editors went ahead with the piece, entitled “How LBJ’s 
Family Amassed Its Fortune.” 

Written by investigative reporters Keith Wheeler and 
William Lambert, the article made clear their gut feeling 
that the public record did not necessarily reveal the entire 
story. Thus, in analyzing the family’s numerous real es- 
tate deals, Wheeler and Lambert had this to say: 

Following the trail of some of these transactions re- 
sembles the action in a Western movie, where the 
cowboys ride off in a cloud of dust to the south, the 
herd stampedes northeastward, the Indians start to 
westward but, once out of sight, circle toward the 
north, the rustlers drift eastward and the cavalry, 
coming to the rescue, gets lost entirely — all over stony 
ground leaving little trace. 

Needless to say, the article was written without the co- 
operation of the White House; nevertheless its authors 
placed the Johnson assets at about $14 million. Several 
days later the White House released an audit which put 
the figure at $3.5 million. Again there was deception. 
For the lower figure was based on the purchase price of 
the family’s holdings and not the contemporary market 
value. 

Except for Life , the Wall Street Journal , and a few other 
publications, the media generally remained mum about 
the unseemly growth of Johnson’s wealth while in office. 
There was no spree of digging or moralizing, with scores of 
bloodhound reporters on the case, as there was to be when 
Nixon’s finances — trifling as compared with his prede- 
cessor’s — became an issue. 

The role of Bobby Baker in the building of the Johnson 
fortune was never fully cleared up. The main reason, of 
course, was the refusal of Senate Democrats to permit any 
probing of that curious relationship. Even President Ken- 
nedy had often wondered out loud about how LBJ made 
his money. But Kennedy, as he told Bradlee on October 
22, 1963, was fairly certain Johnson had not been “on the 
take since he was elected.” Before that, Kennedy told his 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 139 

friend, “I’m not so sure.” At the same time, on that day, 
Kennedy indirectly acknowledged that LBJ, while serving 
one heartbeat away from the presidency, had been improp- 
erly tooling around the country in Grumman corporate 
jets. 

Exactly one month later John Kennedy’s heart stopped 
beating, and the nation had a new President. 



ELEVEN 



As Vice President, Lyndon Johnson felt he had good 
reason to fear the Kennedys. He was well aware that they 
were spreading all kinds of stories about him behind his 
back. The fact that the President would constantly refer 
to him as “Landslide,” in speaking to intimates, had 
reached him. And causing Johnson extreme embarrassment 
was a published report that at a party at Robert Kennedy’s 
home — Hickory Hill — some friends had given the Attor- 
ney General an LBJ voodoo doll in which to stick pins. 
But there was little this proud Texan could do but take 
it. He was, after all, completely beholden to the young 
President whom he had once described as “looking like a 
spavined hunchback.” 

In other words there was no love lost between the Ken- 
nedys and Johnson. In fact the Vice President was con- 
vinced that the President and his brother had been spread- 
ing the word that he would be “dumped” from the ticket 
in 1964. And Johnson, as he told his old crony Senator 
Thomas J. Dodd in October 1963, was resigned to that 
embarrassing fate. His eyes brimming with tears, Johnson 
told the Connecticut Democrat that the Kennedys were 
“sadists.” 

In his conversation with Dodd Johnson also confided 
his fear that he was being wiretapped, as well as being 
kept under surveillance. Though he did not explain in de- 
tail, he said he had “solid information” that “Bobby” — 
whom he invariably characterized as a “little bastard” — 
was keeping tabs on everything he was doing for the pur- 
pose of “getting” him. 

Many of Lyndon’s friends thought him slightly paranoid 
about Bobby, but in view of later revelations the Vice 
President might not have been too far off base in his 
suspicions. Johnson’s mood in this period was later summed 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 141 

up by a journalist who had interviewed him at length. 
“During his Vice Presidential tenure,” wrote Arnold Beich- 
man,* 

Johnson’s loyalties were surely tried. He had an un- 
happy idea that he was being followed, that his wires 
were tapped. What outsiders can only sense is how 
black were those days for him and the dark fore- 
boding about his political future. What is now said in 
Washington — and which has not been publicly con- 
firmed — is that, as soon as he became President, John- 
son ordered an end to widespread wiretapping. With 
good reason, Johnson is for the right to privacy. 

Johnson was absolutely convinced, for example, that it 
was the Justice Department which had leaked stories on 
the suspicious financial shenanigans of Robert G. (Bobby) 
Baker, the gangling South Carolinian who had served some 
hair-raising years as secretary to then Senate Majority 
Leader Johnson. It was during that period that Johnson 
had said of Baker, “I have two daughters. If I had a son, 
this would be the boy. ... (He is) my strong right arm, 
the last man I see at night, the first one I see in the morn- 
ing.” In some quarters Baker was referred to as the “one 
hundred and first Senator.” 

In the fall, of 1963 the scandal involving Baker broke 
wide open. A private suit had been filed in federal court 
charging that he had improperly used his influence in the 
Senate to obtain defense plant contracts for his vending 
machine firm. That unloosed a torrent of stories concern- 
ing other of Baker’s financial wheeling-and-dealing, as well 
as sensational yarns concerning the preoccupation of some 
of the high and mighty with booze and broads. 

Because of LBJ’s once close ties to Baker, the Vice 
President’s name was linked to the Senate aide’s as soon 
as the case began to unravel. And immediately there was 
speculation that President Kennedy would use the scandal 
as an excuse for “dumping” LBJ from the 1964 ticket. 
The question arose at Kennedy’s next-to-last press con- 

*But as we shall see, LBJ’s concern for the “right to privacy” was 
largely self-centered. As President he had no compunctions about 
ordering the wiretapping of whoever he considered persona non 
grata. 



142 



VICTOR LASKY 



ference on October 31, 1963. When a reporter asked 
whether he wanted Johnson on the ticket and whether he 
expected “that he will be on,” the President said quickly: 
“Yes to both questions.” 

But Kennedy seemed to be ambivalent on the subject. 
Speaking privately with his loyal secretary, Mrs. Evelyn 
Lincoln, the President indicated his intention of getting 
rid of Johnson. In her book Kennedy and Johnson , Mrs. 
Lincoln said she had asked the President who he intended 
to have as his runningmate. 

“At this time,” Kennedy replied unhesitatingly, “I am 
thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. 
But it will not be Lyndon.” 

But in talking with Bradlee, the President said that talk 
about dumping Lyndon from the ticket was “preposterous 
on the face of it. We’ve got to carry Texas in ’64, and may- 
be Georgia.” In other words the same Southern strategy 
that led JFK to pick LBJ as his runningmate in the first 
place.* 

Still it was becoming painfully obvious that Vaffaire 
Baker was shaping up as a major Republican issue against 
the Kennedy administration in the following year. At GOP 
urging, the Senate voted to investigate the case. Baker 
had resigned his post rather than respond to questions at 
an executive session of Senate leaders. And Johnson 
feared further political damage. 

Then came Dallas — and Johnson inherited the presi- 
dency. The investigation into Baker’s affairs continued in 
executive session, and for some weeks the new President 
waited for the other shoe to drop. For he knew exactly 
what was being testified to behind those closed Senate 
doors. And the testimony did not make LBJ look too 
good. So much so that some of LBJ’s aides pleaded with 
him to repudiate Baker with a statement “to the effect that 
he had trusted and been fond of this young man and was 
sorry he had turned bad,” according to Eric Goldman, one 
of those aides. 



•Except for a last-minute decision to go all-out for Southern sup- 
port, Kennedy would have selected Senator Stuart Symington in 
1960, according to Clark Clifford, who recently told the St. Louis 
Post-Dispatch that on the night of his 1960 nomination, Kennedy 
promised the spot to Symington but withdrew the offer the next day. 
Such are the vagaries of history. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 143 

Johnson decided to say nothing. Was it because Baker 
knew too much? 

Finally Johnson was forced to break his silence. The 
Senate Rules Committee, which had been conducting the 
investigation, made public some extraordinary testimony 
involving the new President. The sworn testimony came 
from a suburban Maryland insurance salesman, Don B. 
Reynolds, who claimed he had taken Baker into his firm 
as a vice president in order to exploit his political con- 
tacts. This was the way he made huge payoffs to Baker. 
Reynolds also testified that it was Baker who had asked 
him to sell a life insurance policy to Lyndon Johnson. This 
was in 1957, two years after the then Majority Leader 
had suffered a massive heart attack. Reynolds arranged 
for a $100,000 policy, despite the fact that Johnson was 
considered to be in a high-risk category. 

Not long afterward Reynolds received a call from 
Walter Jenkins, one of LBJ’s top aides, who suggested it 
would be nice if Reynolds would purchase some advertising 
time on KTBC, the Austin television station owned by 
Mrs. Johnson. The implication was clear. Johnson was 
demanding a kickback on the broker’s commission 
Reynolds had received on the Majority Leader’s policy. 
Reynolds took the hint and bought the commercial spots 
for $1,208, which he later resold at a fraction of what they 
cost to a kitchenware manufacturer who had more need 
for them. 

Two years later, according to Reynolds, Baker advised 
him it would also be nice if he would present Johnson 
with a certain kind of high-fidelity stereophonic phono- 
graph. The $585 phonograph was promptly sent to the 
Johnson home, along with invoices listing Reynolds as 
the purchaser, the insurance man testified. And then in 
1961, after becoming Vice President, Lyndon Johnson 
bought another $100,000 life insurance policy from Rey- 
nolds. 

After Reynolds testified about Jenkins, .the presidential 
aide hid in his White House office, refusing to take any 
calls from reporters. And LBJ, as usual when he was in 
trouble, turned to two lawyer-friends for advice on what 
to do next. Both Abe Fortas and Clark Clifford suggested 
that Jenkins turn down Republican suggestions that he 
appear before the Senate Rules Committee where he would 



144 VICTOR LASKY 

undergo tough cross-examination. On their advice Jenkins 
dispatched an evasive memorandum which seemed to 
deny much of Reynolds’s testimony. 

All of which was recalled during the Watergate furor by 
Senator Carl Curtis, who had been the ranking Republican 
on the Senate committee that investigated the Baker case. 
As he told North Carolina Republicans on November 3, 
1973: “The Committee needed the testimony of Walter 
Jenkins. Do you think we ever got it? We battled for 
months and never did get the testimony of Walter Jenkins. 
There were six Democrats and three Republicans on the 
Committee. Time and again our efforts to get the testimony 
of Walter Jenkins were thwarted by a straight party vote 
of six to three. 

“On a couple of occasions, I took our fight to the Senate 
floor. I offered proposals whereby the Senate as a whole 
would instruct the Committee to subpoena a witness if 
three Senators made such a request. It was voted down. 
Who do you suppose opposed this effort? Who do you 
suppose was aligned with the coverup and concealing of 
evidence? 

“Who do you suppose took the position that a Senate 
Committee couldn’t even question one White House em- 
ployee if he was a Democrat? Well, there were a lot of 
people opposing our efforts but included in that group 
were the guiding lights on the Democratic side of the 
present Senate Committee investigating the Watergate scan- 
dal. My, how times have changed! 

. . Where were these purists of the TV networks 
when Clark Clifford and Abe Fortas were conducting a 
coverup? Why were they so silent then?” 

Reynolds, under oath, had also told several other shock- 
ing stories involving Johnson. He spoke of the time Baker 
opened a satchel full of paper money which he said was a 
$100,000 payoff to Johnson for pushing through a $7 
billion TFX plane contract. So much pressure had been 
exerted to get the contract for Texas-based General 
Dynamics that Republicans called the TFX the “LBJ.” 

Another Reynolds story described how Johnson, mak- 
ing an official trip to the Far East as Vice President, drew 
$100,000 in counterpart funds while in Hong Kong. This 
is money earned by the U.S. government in foreign coun- 
tries and can only be spent there. According to Reynolds, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 145 

Johnson had spent all that money “in a period of twelve 
to fourteen hours buying gifts for people who were 
loaded.” 

The case of Baker and his highly placed friends actually 
would never have been broken had it not been for the un- 
tiring efforts of a little-known Republican senator from 
Delaware, John J. Williams. It was this soft-spoken former 
chicken-feed dealer who had persuaded Reynolds to talk 
in the first place. And Williams operated without a staff 
of investigators, funds, or power of subpoena.* 

Even before the story broke into the headlines, Williams 
knew that his curiosity about the case had triggered some- 
one pretty high up in Washington to “get” him. Strangers 
posing as Washington investigators were poking around 
his home town, asking questions about such things as the 
kind of farm subsidies the senator was collecting. Williams 
knew immediately that an effort was being made to prove 
he was benefitting from legislation he helped pass. But 
Williams remained unafraid and more determined than 
ever to pursue his inquiries into corruption in high places. 

Then one night in February 1964 he met with an official 
in the Johnson administration who had something frighten- 
ing to say. “I couldn’t risk going to your office,” he told 
Williams, “but I can’t stomach what they’re doing to you. 
Senator, your mail is being intercepted. Every letter you 
write to any federal official asking about the Baker case is 
immediately routed to a special handler. He sends the 
Senate Rules Committee copies of any information sent to 
you. Sometimes he even checks with the Committee be- 
fore deciding whether your inquiry is to be answered at all. 
You’d better be careful about what you put in writing.” 

When Williams confirmed and then disclosed that his 
mail was indeed being watched by unauthorized persons, 
the Washington Star declared editorially: “The Senate 
should be totally outraged. Obviously someone high in the 
Executive Branch issued the instructions for this monitor- 
ing. Nothing of the sort, as far as anyone knows, has ever 
been done before. Who issued the order?” 

Well, everyone knew who issued the order; but in those 

♦The revealing story is told in an article by John Barron in the 
Reader's Digest , September 1965, entitled “The Case of Bobby 
Baker and the Courageous Senator.” 



146 



VICTOR LASKY 



pre-Watergate days no one wanted to take the lead in 
fingering a President. Johnson had just taken office under 
tragic circumstances and most everyone wished him well, 
particularly his fellow Democrats controlling Congress, not 
a few of whom had had their own special relationships 
with Baker. 

But that didn’t deter Johnson from employing even the 
IRS in efforts to harass a courageous senator from Delaware 
who came to be called “the conscience of the Senate.” 
For suddenly the IRS ordered Williams to produce all the 
records he had used to prepare a return he had submitted 
two years before. This meant the senator had to leave 
Washington and submit to a line-by-line audit by an IRS 
agent. It also meant that Williams had to curtail his per- 
sonal investigation into Baker’s tangled affairs. The pay- 
off, incidentally, was that after all the auditing and time 
spent, the IRS determined that the government owed the 
senator money. But it was Williams’s belief that had there 
been anything wrong in his tax return that information 
most certainly would have been passed on to Baker’s 
highly placed friends. 

Meanwhile, at the suggestion of his pals Fortas and 
Clifford, Lyndon Johnson broke his silence. At an im- 
promptu press conference LBJ himself brought up the 
newspaper stories about ‘an insurance policy that was 
written on my life some seven years ago, and I am still 
here.” He did not refer to the television time purchased by 
Reynolds but did allude to the stereo by describing it first 
as “a gift . . . that an employee of mine [Baker] made to 
me and Mrs. Johnson” and then as a gift of “the Baker 
family.” He noted that the Bakers and the Johnsons had 
frequently exchanged gifts. Baker, he claimed, “was an 
employee of the public and had no business pending before 
me and was asking for nothing, and so far as I know ex- 
pected nothing in return any more than I did when I had 
presented him with gifts.” 

LBJ ended the discussion by saying he would not en- 
tertain any more questions on the subject. Thus reporters 
did not have the opportunity to ask the President why the 
invoice attached to the delivered set read: “Charge to Don 
Reynolds, 8484 Fenton Street, Silver Spring; shipped to 
Lyndon Johnson, 4931 30th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 
one stereo.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 147 

At later press conferences LBJ would not permit further 
probing into these areas. Even the persistent Clark Mollen- 
hoff was cut off when he asked verboten questions. But the 
correspondent once received some sort of reply to a ques- 
tion. “How do you feel about the general ethical question 
that’s been raised, relative to high government officials . . . 
who have an interest in government-regulated industries, 
such as television?” Mollenhoff asked. 

LBJ, his face hardening, replied that he owned no stock 
in the Texas Broadcasting Company, that Lady Bird’s 
stock was under the tight control of trustees. “I see no 
conflict in any way,” he snarled. 

And then came a White House blitz aimed at blackening 
Reynolds’s reputation. “Persons within and close to the 
Johnson Administration,” reported Cabell Philipps in The 
New York Times , “have attempted to use secret Govern- 
ment documents to impugn” the Reynolds testimony. Con- 
fidential files from the FBI and Air Force Intelligence con- 
taining derogatory information about Reynolds were shown 
to selected editors and newsmen, according to the Times. 
Reynolds, who had been an Air Force officer, had engaged 
in black market activities while overseas and other un- 
ethical conduct, according to the dossiers. Drew Pearson, 
who also had been shown the files, weighed in with a re- 
port, presumably based on FBI sources, describing Rey- 
nolds as a man who “has brought reckless charges in the 
past against people who crossed him, accusing them of 
being Communists and sex deviates.” 

But Reynolds had not accused LBJ of being a Com- 
munist or a pervert. His charges boiled down to the con- 
tention that Johnson, wittingly or unwittingly, had ac- 
cepted kickbacks as Majority Leader. It was the kind of 
charge which, had it been proven in a court of law, could 
have resulted in a conviction. After all, lesser mortals in 
government, when found guilty of the same allegation, 
spent time in the slammer. At the very least accepting 
kickbacks most definitely was an impeachable offense. 

Just as shocking, in the light of the holier-than-thou 
attitude taken by much of the media during Watergate, 
was the extraordinary nonchalance exhibited by newsmen 
and editors willing to peruse supposedly confidential in- 
vestigative files containing raw, unevaluated gossip about 
an American citizen. There were very few words of pro- 



148 



VICTOR LASKY 



test about what after all was illegal behavior on the part 
of the White House. Eye-opening too was the question- 
able, if not illegal, misuse of the FBI which, on orders of 
the White House, launched a full field investigation of 
Reynolds. 

Also misused on White House orders was the IRS. Full 
field investigations of Reynolds’s friends and business as- 
sociates were launched by chief counsel Sheldon Cohen, 
formerly a young law associate of Fortas. Reynolds him- 
self, warned that his life might be in danger, later fled 
the country. 

Meanwhile LBJ sought to divorce himself completely 
from Baker. He let the word get out that he was abandon- 
ing him. And, as was reported by Evans and Novak,* 
“This irritation with his former protege was heightened 
by the President’s deep concern over whether Attorney 
General Kennedy would use the Baker case against him 
in some way.” 

LBJ had good reason to be concerned. He well knew 
that Bobby was no friend of his and, in fact, resented 
that he had succeeded to the office won at the polls by his 
beloved brother. To the Kennedyites LBJ was a “usurper.” 
Moreover Johnson did not know how much Bobby knew 
about him and what he intended to do with that informa- 
tion. As an Attorney General not beholden to him, Ken- 
nedy might proceed on certain investigations that could 
prove damaging to the new President. 

Also giving LBJ nightmares was the fear that Baker, 
who knew so much, might spill the beans. And Baker was 
indeed indicating that he might do just that unless he were 
bailed out of his difficulties. The word went out to Dem- 
ocratic leaders that LBJ wanted a lid placed on the Senate 
probe of Baker’s affairs then under way. 

Of course there was still Senator Williams who, despite 
all sorts of threats and obstacles being hurled in his path, 
refused to lay off. But the threats had their effect on po- 
tential witnesses who had promised to tell all they knew 
about Baker. One important businessman, who previously 
had said he would provide evidence, told the senator, “I 

♦In Lyndon B. Johnson : The Exercise of Power by Rowland Evans 
and Robert Novak (New York: New American Library, 1966). 
Probably the best sourcebook on LBJ and his early years in the 
presidency. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 149 

don’t know what you’re talking about, Senator. I never 
talked to you before in my life. I’m sorry, but I’m sure you 
understand.” 

The senator himself began to feel the heat of an angered 
LBJ. What he did not know was that the very night LBJ 
assumed the presidency, he had spoken to Abe Fortas about 
Williams. On that occasion the new President vowed to 
punish Williams. There was talk about turning the IRS 
loose on the Delaware maverick, perhaps getting enough 
on him to send the “bastard” to jail on an income tax rap. 
And if that wasn’t feasible, the Democrats would flood 
the state with money to try to defeat the “sonofabitch” 
when he came up for reelection the next year. 

All of which was done. 

Also in the works was a campaign of character as- 
sassination. Williams was called a “crackpot” by Demo- 
cratic members of the Rules Committee. Others said he 
just hated Democratic presidents, recalling his earlier 
relentless attacks on the Truman administration. Drew 
Pearson wanted to know why Williams had not been out- 
raged by Eisenhower’s acceptance of expensive gifts while 
serving in office. The Washington Post helped the LBJ 
cause by publishing a false, unchecked story alleging that 
the senator had been using hidden microphones in his of- 
fice to record interviews. 

On only one other occasion did LBJ publicly discuss 
Baker. That was during a television interview on March 
15, 1964. Asked if he was still a friend of Baker’s, the 
President said he hadn’t seen or talked with him since 
he resigned from his Senate post. He denied that Baker 
had been his protege. “He was there before I came to the 
Senate for ten years, doing a job substantially the same 
as he is doing now; he was elected by all the Senators . . . 
including the Republican Senators.” Which was not exactly 
telling it like it was. 

As his former press secretary, George Reedy, later put 
it, “Johnson was really panicked. ... He adopted this line 
that he hardly knew Baker, and I think he tried to con- 
vince himself the line was true. . . . Whatever Johnson 
tells you at any given moment he thinks is the truth. 
The first victim of the Johnson whopper is always Lyndon 
Baines Johnson.” 

Meanwhile Democratic leaders in the Senate began 



150 



VICTOR LASKY 



moving behind the scenes to bring the probe to a rapid 
conclusion. It was an election year and they did not want 
to provide the Republicans a juicy issue. By party-line votes 
the Democratic majority on the Rules Committee rejected 
Republican efforts to expand the scope and duration of 
the inquiry. The hearings were terminated on March 25. 

On July 8 the panel’s report was released. While the 
Democratic majority found Baker “guilty of many gross 
improprieties” in his numerous business dealings, its review 
of the insurance episode in effect exonerated Johnson. The 
Democrats denounced the President’s accuser in these 
words: “It appears rather obvious that Reynolds in his 
effort to enjoy the limelight of this investigation was not 
reluctant to draw on his imagination and to add to his 
store of knowledge as time passed.” 

The Republicans felt otherwise. Their minority report 
observed that the investigation of the case had never been 
fully explored, noting for example that Jenkins had never 
been called to testify in person and be subjected to cross- 
examination. 

Previously, on May 14, 1964, the Democratic majority 
in the full Senate voted to quash further hearings. In effect 
the Democrats had voted for a cover-up. They wanted 
to make certain no White House witnesses were called to 
connect Baker’s activities with those of his former boss. 
Seven times senators were given the opportunity of getting 
to the bottom of the scandal and all seven times the Dem- 
ocrats voted nay. Not all of them, to be sure, but enough 
to override the solid vote of the Republicans for an air- 
ing of the story which, many of them felt, could lead right 
into the Oval Office. 

Among those who voted repeatedly for the cover-up was 
Sam Ervin. Two other Democrats to appear on the Ervin 
Committee who voted to terminate the Baker hearings were 
Herman Talmadge of Georgia and Dan Inouye of Hawaii. 
Only in 1973 did Ervin, Talmadge, and Inouye want to 
dig and dig and dig. 

All of this was recalled nine years later, at the height 
of the Watergate hearings, by a Republican congressman 
from Illinois, Philip M. Crane, who made this pertinent 
observation: “I think it is fair to state that the American 
people have been subjected to a great deal of moralizing 
by certain members of the Senate Watergate Committee 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 151 

in connection with their television show. Now, mind you, 
moralizing has its place. However, selective indignation has 
no place in the pulpit.” 

Crane obviously was referring to such “extremist hum- 
bug” — in a Richmond, Virginia, newspaper’s phrase — as 
Senator Sam’s teary-eyed declaration that Watergate was 
worse than the Civil War, in which half a million Ameri- 
cans lost their lives. 

Other Democrats who voted in behalf of the Baker cover- 
up included Bayh of Indiana, Byrd of West Virginia, Can- 
non of Nevada, Church of Idaho, McGovern of South 
Dakota, Mansfield of Montana, Muskie of Maine, and 
Pastore of Rhode Island. Many of these worthies, need- 
less to say, were later to be horrified by allegations of a 
cover-up at Watergate. 

After the Senate committee ended its Baker probe in 
July 1964, declaring that any further evidence on Baker 
would be “repetitious and cumulative,” Lyndon Johnson 
knew that the worst was over. He then decided to resolve 
the other “Bobby problem.” Among other things, Kennedy 
had decided he wanted to be named LBJ’s runningmate 
at the upcoming national convention in Atlantic City. But 
LBJ wasn’t buying. 

LBJ suspected, and not without cause, that Kennedy was 
leading a cabal aimed at destroying his credibility as 
President. From the beginning he sought to ease Kennedy 
supporters out of his administration. After supposedly con- 
fidential information began to leak out of the White House, 
LBJ asked J. Edgar Hoover to discreetly determine the 
Kennedyites in his midst. According to Time , after one 
such FBI probe, Richard Goodwin — who had coined the 
phrase “the Great Society” for LBJ — decided to resign as 
a presidential speechwriter, accepting a job as senior fellow 
at Wesleyan University at half his White House pay. John- 
son also ordered FBI name checks of all high officials in 
the Democratic National Committee. So phobic was LBJ 
about Bobby that once, when the Washington Star attacked 
him editorially, the President asked Hoover to determine 
whether there was any Kennedy money behind the paper. 
There wasn’t. 

On July 29, 1964, the two antagonists met in the Oval 
Office. Kennedy noticed immediately that LBJ had switched 
on his tape recorder. So he was relatively restrained when 



152 



VICTOR LASKY 



LBJ informed him there was no way that he could become 
the vice presidential candidate. Bobby did not argue. But 
he did say that the Kennedy family would not be overly 
happy if Sargent Shriver was selected as the number two 
man. Within the family, of course, there was a sense of 
priority and a brother-in-law was way down the list. 

Then they discussed other possible jobs for Bobby. 
Would he be interested in an embassy in Rome, London, 
or Paris, or possibly another cabinet post? RFK said he 
was only interested in remaining as Attorney General. He 
had a number of important tasks that remained to be com- 
pleted. 

That brought the subject around to the forthcoming 
campaign and Bobby suggested that the Baker case might 
prove embarrassing. But Johnson said he didn’t think so. 
For one thing he felt the Republicans wouldn’t dare to 
make an issue of the case. He said too many Republicans 
themselves were vulnerable. And he named a few who had 
better keep their traps shut. The President implied he had 
the goods on them. Which was why the President thought 
the case was dead. 

But the Baker case, though dying, was not yet buried. 
It became, as the Democrats had feared, a campaign issue. 
Not only did the Republicans keep screaming “whitewash,” 
but their presidential standardbearer Barry Goldwater said: 
“Bobby Baker’s affairs lead right straight into the White 
House.” 

At the same time Williams kept digging into the Baker 
cesspool and coming up with still more startling allegations 
of high-level wrongdoing. One of those allegations had to 
do with Baker’s conspiring to channel an illegal payment 
of $25,000 from a construction millionaire working on 
government projects, Matthew McCloskey, into the 1960 
Kennedy-Johnson campaign chest. Reynolds had sworn 
under oath that he had acted as the “bagman” in that 
transaction. His testimony was bolstered by copies of in- 
voices and a canceled check. 

The new allegations compelled the Senate to reopen the 
investigation. Through Fortas, LBJ was in close touch 
with leading Democratic senators. Two days of hearings 
were held in October. Then the hearings were suspended 
until after the election for lack of a quorum. Whereupon 
the chairman of the Rules Committee, Everett Jordan 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 153 

of North Carolina, left Washington to join Mrs. Johnson 
on her whistle-stop tour of the South. 

All through that fall wave after wave of administration 
spokesmen invaded Delaware to belittle Williams as some 
sort of cranky old eccentric. And then on the Saturday 
before the election, much to the amazement of accompany- 
ing correspondents, LBJ himself turned up in a small 
Delaware town to plead for William’s defeat. “Give me 
men I can work with!” he bellowed. It was an unscheduled, 
last-minute appearance in a state with only three electoral 
votes. And Williams thought he might go down to defeat. 

But the people of Delaware voted independently. While 
they gave LBJ an overwhelming vote, they also elected 
Williams to a fourth term by 7,000 votes. 

Still Williams’s long ordeal was not yet over. He again 
had to appear before the IRS to defend his tax returns. 
And a smear campaign was launched to make the sixty- 
one-year-old senator appear as a sanctimonious hypocrite. 

Word had been leaked that Carole Tyler, Baker’s con- 
fidential secretary, was going to expose the senator’s sex 
life. This was the same woman who had repeatedly taken 
the Fifth Amendment before the Rules Committee in order 
to avoid saying anything. 

Finally Miss Tyler turned up at a Nashville press con- 
ference. Reading from a typewritten statement, she said, 
“I wonder what you would think if you knew that the prin- 
cipal instigator of the Senate investigation was seen by me 
on July 6 at 6:30 a.m. with a lady — not his wife — just 
after they finished breakfast. And just think, this is the 
gentleman who has been criticizing the Senate Rules Com- 
mittee for not going into the so-called sex angle of the 
Baker case.* I leave it to his conscience, if any, as to why 
he was with this lady — not his wife — at such a time near 
a summer resort.” 

Asked to name the senator. Miss Tyler responded, “I 
think you know who I mean.” 

Actually Miss Tyler had been telling the truth. She did, 
in fact, see the senator with a lady not his wife. The lady 
happened to be his granddaughter, whom he was accom- 

♦Though the Baker case was replete with sex angles, the fact was 
that Senator Williams never called on the Rules Committee to in- 
vestigate them. 



154 



VICTOR LASKY 



panying to her home following a weekend at the beach. 
But Williams refused to dignify the attack by commenting 
on it at the time. 

The Rules Committee issued a second “final” report. 
Originally the draft of the report, leaked out to friendly 
reporters, contained innuendoes and insinuations about 
Williams’s having withheld information and making false 
charges. 

Williams angrily demanded of his fellow senators that 
they either put up or shut up. “Retract the charges or else 
repeat them in my presence,” he declared on the Senate 
floor. The cover-up artists on the Rules Committee decided 
that discretion was the better part of valor. They deleted 
all the attacks on Williams. But they had definitely suc- 
ceeded in circulating canards without assuming respon- 
sibility. 

“I have plenty of time,” Williams again warned. “And 
I am not about to be intimidated. In fact, my curiosity and 
determination grow as resistance intensifies.” 

Bobby Baker did not seem overly troubled. Having 
played ball with his friends in high places by taking the 
Fifth Amendment and saying nothing, he fully expected 
that, even if indicted, nothing would happen to him. He was 
to be proved wrong. Because of Williams’s bulldog per- 
sistence, the Criminal Division of the Justice Department 
finally was forced to move. But the Criminal Division 
didn’t get J. Edgar Hoover’s cooperation. When the divi- 
sion requested that the FBI “wire” an informant who was 
about to confer with Baker, the director not only refused 
but reported the request to the President. Whereupon, with- 
out LBJ’s knowledge, the Justice Department lawyers 
went to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Narcotics 
and got the help they sought. 

These events were revealed in January 1967 when Baker 
finally went on trial, accused of seven counts of tax evasion, 
one count of theft, and one count of conspiracy to defraud 
the government. On January 17, 1967, Assistant FBI Di- 
rector Cartha D. (“Deke”) DeLoach was summoned to the 
White House by LBJ aide Marvin Watson. The President 
was “quite exercised,” Watson reported, at the news that 
the Bureau of Narcotics had arranged for the “recording 
device.” In an internal memo DeLoach reported that 
“Watson told me that the President wanted a complete 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 155 

rundown” on former Assistant Attorney General Herbert 
J. Miller, who had ordered the use of wiretaps and bugs 
in the Baker investigation. 

The memo outlined Watson’s request that the check on 
Miller and four Treasury officials be made “as discreetly 
as possible,” and that the FBI reports on them “should 
specifically point out whether any of these individuals were 
close to Bobby Kennedy.” Moreover, according to the 
memo: “The President does not want any record made 
of this request. He wants the memoranda in question to 
be blind memoranda. He desires that they be as thorough 
as possible and wants this done on an expeditious basis.” 

DeLoach noted that the President should be told that 
“Jack Miller was formerly an Assistant AG under Bobby 
Kennedy and is now a law partner of former Bureau [As- 
sistant Director] Courtney Evans,” who had served as a 
liaison between the FBI and Attorney General Kennedy.* 
DeLoach concluded by saying that Evans’s “lying defense 
of Kennedy” should be set forth, an apparent reference 
to public statements by Evans earlier that Kennedy had 
not known of FBI electronic surveillance of Martin Luther 
King, Jr. 

In effect, therefore, the President through Watson had 
ordered the FBI to conduct an unusual investigation of 
another federal law enforcement agency for daring to poke 
around in the affairs of his former protege. LBJ was ab- 
solutely certain that “Bobby’s boys,” still in the federal 
bureaucracy, were still out to “get” him. At the time, of 
course, Kennedy had become a senator and appeared to 
be mobilizing anti-LBJ sentiment for his own try at the 
presidency. 

Meanwhile Baker, who had been found guilty, began a 
series of appeals that took several years. In January 1971 
the man whom Johnson once considered to be like “a son” 
began serving a one-to-three year sentence in the federal 
penitentiary at Lewisburg. By that time Johnson was no 
longer in office. Baker was paroled in 1972, after serving 
seventeen months. 



♦Ironically one of Attorney Miller’s more celebrated clients cur- 
rently is Richard M. Nixon. 



TWELVE 



It was Lyndon Johnson who once uttered the memorable 
obscenity about not feeling safe unless he had a man’s un- 
mentionables in his pocket. As much as any other Presi- 
dent (and probably more) Lyndon Johnson devoted con- 
siderable effort to obtaining intimate information about his 
foes or potential foes, which added up to quite a list. Ex- 
cept for his wife, Lady Bird, he didn’t trust a soul and, as 
he once said half-jokingly, “Sometimes I’m not too sure 
about her.” 

As President, Johnson had no hesitation about using 
various investigatory agencies to carry on political warfare 
against his adversaries. In so doing, he emulated the man he 
had admired most in political life, Franklin Delano Roose- 
velt. For FDR also used (or misused) the FBI to dig up 
dirt on his enemies. On several occasions FDR asked the 
FBI to call off investigations of political allies and friends, 
most notably Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, who 
had been accused of homosexual activities. 

All this and much more were contained in a secret 
memorandum prepared by an official of the FBI, William 
C. Sullivan. A scholarly expert in counter-intelligence, Sulli- 
van had written the memorandum at the request of John 
Dean when he was still at the White House. The document 
outlined political uses made of the Bureau dating back to 
the New Deal. When Dean broke with Nixon, he turned 
the Sullivan memo over to the Watergate Committee, along 
with a huge batch of materials. But the committee, headed 
by Sam Ervin, decided to bury the memo and forget it. 
Nevertheless portions were leaked and published in Time. 

Its existence was confirmed by Ervin’s deputy counsel 
Rufus L. Edminsten, who said the reason the committee 
would not use the memorandum as a basis of inquiry was 
because it contained “personal cheap shots” based on un- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 157 

documented recollections and generally was “rather dis- 
tasteful.” Moreover, he claimed, the document was “not 
based on any established facts.” 

Of course this was the same committee which had gone 
out of its way to enliven its Nixon record with every piece 
of gossip and hearsay evidence it could find anywhere. 
But, all of a sudden, the Democrats controlling the com- 
mittee decided against permitting “cheap shots” in a record 
already cluttered with them. Why? The reason is obvious. 
The Sullivan memorandum had centered its attention on 
the misdeeds of two Democrats, Franklin Roosevelt and 
Lyndon Johnson. And the main thrust of the Democrats 
was to “get” a Republican President. To do this success- 
fully, it was essential to cover up the numerous im- 
proprieties of his predecessors with the result — and for the 
purpose — of isolating Nixon’s sins and making them ap- 
pear unique and unprecedented. In this they succeeded 
with a vengeance. 

According to John Dean, the memorandum came into 
being as the result of a request by Nixon during the 
Watergate furor. Aware that the FBI had conducted po- 
litical intelligence operations in Democratic administra- 
tions, Nixon asked Dean to obtain examples from Sulli- 
van. And Sullivan, forced to resign from the FBI after 
a policy feud with Hoover, was only too happy to comply. 
To compile his memorandum, Sullivan used data from 
secret records listing presidential requests for political 
help going back to the days of FDR. 

According to the memo, FDR used the G-men lavishly. 
Not only did he employ them to check out potential ap- 
pointees, a perfectly legitimate function, but also to snoop 
into the private lives of his opponents on such issues as 
lend-lease, a hardly legitimate enterprise. On one occasion 
the President asked the Bureau to investigate an army 
colonel who had been acting as Mrs. Roosevelt’s escort. 
Mrs. Roosevelt would also make some unusual requests,” 
Sullivan cryptically noted. 

Sullivan had more to say about FDR’s relations with the 
Bureau in a letter to a conference on “privacy in a free 
society.”* 

*Sullivan was supposed to appear in person but was prevented from 
doing so by a heart attack. However his letter was published in the 



158 



VICTOR LASKY 



“Such a very great man as Franklin D. Roosevelt saw 
nothing wrong in asking the FBI to investigate those op- 
posing his lend-lease policy — a purely political request,” 
wrote Sullivan. 

He also had us look into the activities of others who 
opposed our entrance into World War II just as later 
administrations had the FBI look into those opposing 
the conflict in Vietnam. It was a political request also 
when he instructed us to put a telephone tap, a micro- 
phone and a physical surveillance on an internation- 
ally known leader in his Administration. 

It was done; the results he wanted secured and 
given to him. Certain records of this kind and others 
were not then or later put into the regular filing sys- 
tem. Rather, they were deliberately kept out of it. 
Electronic devices were used freely all through World 
War II, with a minimum of controls. President Roose- 
velt made requests of various kinds. 

In other words the tactics associated with Watergate 
were first put to use by Roosevelt. The identity of the “in- 
ternationally known leader” whom FDR had ordered wire- 
tapped, bugged, and physically surveilled was not made 
known, though Sullivan would have most certainly named 
him had he been asked by the Watergate Committee. 

From various pieces of evidence it could well have been 
Joseph P. Kennedy, then U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. 
Kennedy, an outspoken isolationist and unofficial leader of 
the anti-war forces, had thought very seriously of contest- 
ing FDR for the presidency. An early supporter of FDR 
and the New Deal’s first chairman of the Securities and 
Exchange Commission, Kennedy was bitterly opposed to a 
third term for the President. 

And Roosevelt was well aware of what his ambassador 



final report of the annual Chief Justice Earl Warren Conference on 
Advocacy, held June 1974 at Cambridge, Mass. There were some 
fifty participants — law professors, an assistant district attorney 
from Manhattan, computer experts, diverse academics, law enforce- 
ment officials, members of Congress, journalists, judges (federal 
and state), and William Ruckelshaus, former acting director of 
the FBI. The rapporteur (a euphemism for secretary) was civil 
libertarian Nat Hentoff. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 159 

was saying, even privately. For one thing the British Secret 
Service had been tapping his London quarters and offices. 
As they suspected, Kennedy was taking a defeatist posi- 
tion regarding Britain in the war. After consulting with 
Winston Churchill and other cabinet members, the Secret 
Service arranged for a sheaf of tapped conversation in 
which Kennedy expressed critical opinions of FDR to 
reach the President.* 

Early in 1940 Kennedy announced he would not seek 
the Democratic nomination. However he continued with 
his campaign to keep the United States out of a European 
war, which he felt was an abomination. In October 1940 
he returned from London with the reported objective of 
working against Roosevelt. In fact there was more than 
talk that he was prepared to endorse the Republican can- 
didate, Wendell Willkie. A report even circulated in Wash- 
ington that Henry Luce had arranged for radio time for 
Kennedy’s “I’m for Willkie” speech. 

On his return to Washington Kennedy telephoned Roose- 
velt. As it happened, FDR was conferring with Speaker 
Sam Rayburn and a little-known congressman from Texas 
named Lyndon Johnson when the call came. As Johnson 
later recounted the President’s end of the conversation to 
Arthur Krock, this was what was said: 

“Ah, Joe, old friend, it is so good to hear your voice. 
Please come to the White House tonight for a little family 
dinner. I’m dying to talk to you.” 

Roosevelt than put down the phone and drew his fore- 
finger, razor-fashion, across his throat. 

Kennedy did dine at the White House that night. Be- 
fore the meal was served, he had a chat with the President. 
Exactly what was said in that private meeting was never 
made known. But the next day Kennedy endorsed Roose- 
velt for a third term over a national radio hookup. 

The speech caused astonishment among friends and foes 
alike. Krock, in his memoirs, said the Kennedy broadcast 
was “out of keeping, not only with the wholly opposite 
view he had been expressing privately (to me, among 
others), but with Kennedy’s earned reputation as one of 

♦This is what Randolph Churchill told C. L. Sulzberger in Paris 
in January 1960. The story is contained in Sulzberger’s The Last of 
the Giants (New York: Macmillan, 1970), pp. 629-630. 



160 VICTOR LASKY 

the most forthright men in public life.” And William R. 
Castle, one of the major backers of the isolationist America 
First Committee, termed the speech a “stooge” job for 
Roosevelt, saying privately that some large financial con- 
sideration must have been involved — “Everyone in Boston 
knows that Kennedy is money mad.” 

The Castle thesis seems unlikely. Kennedy, while greedy, 
did have principles. And one of them was to prevent a 
war in which he quite candidly admitted he did not want 
his sons to get killed. Moreover he felt that, whether you 
liked it or not, Nazism indeed was the wave of the future. 
In his opinion the United States could never resolve the 
basic conflicts of Europe. 

Which is pretty much what Kennedy told an interviewer 
for the Boston Globe following the election. Among other 
things he announced that he would lead a Keep-America- 
out-of-war crusade. “I’m willing to spend all I’ve got to 
keep us out of war,” he said. “There’s no sense in our 
getting in. We’d just be left holding the bag.” As far as he 
was concerned, “Democracy is finished in England.” With 
labor leaders helping run the government, “national social- 
ism is coming out of it.” U.S. entry into the war would 
result in the same dread state of affairs here at home. 
Perhaps his greatest indiscretion was in discussing Eleanor 
Roosevelt. “She’s always sending me a note to have some 
little Susie Glotz to tea at the Embassy.” 

At any rate the interview caused a storm both do- 
mestically and internationally. As a result Kennedy resigned 
as ambassador. His political career was virtually destroyed. 
From that point on he began to work to put one of his sons 
in the White House. 

Unknown to most Americans and despite his state- 
ments to the contrary, Roosevelt had embarked on a care- 
fully planned, mostly secret program to involve the United 
States in the war. He felt that Hitler -and his Nazi regime 
were abominations which had to be destroyed. Thus FDR 
authorized the sale of weapons abroad over the objec- 
tions of Congress and, not so incidentally, an American 
public then vigorously isolationist. And he helped to 
establish a joint Anglo-American intelligence network, shar- 
ing U.S. secrets with the British. 

“The President said he wanted a war with Germany, but 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 161 

that he would not declare it,” Churchill reported to his war 
cabinet after meeting with Roosevelt in the summer of 
1941. “He would instead become more and more provoca- 
tive. Mr. Roosevelt said he could look (or an incident 
which would justify him in opening hostilities.” 

Convinced he would succeed in getting the United States 
into the conflict, Roosevelt began to map out war plans 
with Churchill through the offices of a man code-named 
Intrepid and an office called British Security Coordination. 
Intrepid (actually Sir William Stephenson, a Canadian- 
born inventor) worked out of offices on the thirty-sixth 
floor of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, acting as co- 
ordinator between the two leaders, shuffling papers back 
and forth, and engineering the creation of a U.S. in- 
telligence network that became the Office of Strategic 
Services (OSS) when war finally came.* 

In his letter to the Earl Warren conference on privacy, 
William Sullivan made clear that many anti-libertarian 
things had been done by the FBI, beginning in the late 
thirties, in the name of national security which should not 
now be condemned. He noted that 

in a pre-war atmosphere to be followed soon by 
World War II ... we were all convinced we were 
fighting for the survival of our nation. The enemy 
was real. In this nation, with sabotage attempts and 
other problems facing it, the overall enemy consisted 
of Bundists and native fascists in support of the Axis 
powers, and their espionage agents. To be candid, the 
“right to privacy” was not at issue nor was it an 
impediment to solving cases. It mattered not whether 
electronic devices or other techniques were used. The 
issues were black and white and crystal clear. The 
methodology was pragmatic: will it work; will it get 
the necessary results? The primacy of civil liberties on 
occasions gave way to expediency. President Franklin 
D. Roosevelt posed no barrier to this method and, for 
me, this was no criticism of him at that perilous time. 

♦The story, based on Sir William’s recollections as well as ma- 
terials in the British archives, is told in William Stephenson’s, A Man 
Called Intrepid: The Secret War (New York: Harcourt Brace 
Jovanovich, 1976). 



162 



VICTOR LASKY 



Sullivan continued: 

The FBI security operations developed through a pre- 
war psychology which was quickly transformed into a 
war psychology. In a very real sense it has breathed, 
lived and worked within the framework of this war 
psychology ever since. World War II was followed by 
the Korean War which in turn was followed by the 
Vietnam conflict. Permeating our entire nation on the 
home front was the Cold War. Hence, just as a soldier 
on the field of battle did not consider it wrong to kill 
the enemy, so, too, on the home front it was not con- 
sidered wrong in major cases to use extraordinary 
measures in security work. The same enemy was be- 
fore both. Both had the sjme goal — vanquish the 
enemy. We did not consider this unlawful. . . . 

What Sullivan did not say was that just prior to and dur- 
ing World War II most liberals, with a few significant 
exceptions, were wholeheartedly in support of any effort to 
throttle antiwar dissent. The fact that civil liberties were 
being openly and grossly violated led to very little criticism. 
In fact liberals applauded when, even before the United 
States entered the war, the Attorney General convened a 
grand jury to investigate the finances of the nation’s leading 
antiwar organization, the America First Committee. During 
the war itself there were no liberal outcries when the Roose- 
velt administration impaneled a grand jury to bring the 
Chicago Tribune , and particularly its publisher. Colonel 
McCormick, to “justice” for publishing a story involving 
Japanese fleet movements. 

Nor did the liberals protest when it became known that 
FDR had personally ordered the IRS to look into Charles 
A. Lindbergh’s tax returns. Lindbergh, of course, had been 
taking a jaundiced view toward FDR’s inching into the 
European conflict. But the IRS probe came only after Lind- 
bergh refused a deal whereby he would become the na- 
tion’s first Secretary of Air if only he would support the 
President’s position of all aid to France and Britain “short 
of war.” 

Asked about the probe, Lindbergh told reporters he wel- 
comed it. He said he thought it was a privilege to be an 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 163 

American and pay taxes. Moreover, he said, he always 
paid an extra 10 percent after calculating what he owed 
the government. The IRS probe, though annoying, came 
to naught. 

Lindbergh campaigned against FDR’s “short of war” 
measures on the ground that they were not steps toward 
peace, as the President was arguing. Rather the aviator con- 
tended that FDR was seeking to create incidents at sea 
that inevitably would drag the nation into war when he 
authorized Atlantic patrols, a “shoot-on-sight” policy, as 
well as having armed American merchant ships enter war 
zones. According to Lindbergh, this was “government by 
subterfuge” and one profoundly undemocratic, since the 
President refused to take the issue to Congress. Lindbergh 
.repeatedly called for “open discussion, more legislative au- 
thority in foreign affairs, and limitations on the President’s 
war-making powers.” These were the very arguments, as 
Wayne S. Cole noted with a touch of irony iff a recent 
book,* that “liberal internationalists would use in attacking 
President Nixon thirty years later.” 

It was largely Lindbergh’s effective assaults on what he 
termed misuse of presidential powers that led the Roose- 
velt administration to place the “Lone Eagle” and his anti- 
war associates on their enemies list. Lindbergh, of course, 
had made one ill-advised comment on what he termed 
Jewish “agitation” to involve the United States in the war. 
The remark set off an explosion which FDR exploited 
to a fare-thee-well. According to Cole, Roosevelt delib- 
erately “used that tactic of identifying isolationists with 
Nazism to discredit Lindbergh.” This, says Cole, was 
“fundamentally similar to” the tactics used by McCarthyites 
“in attacking liberal internationalists in the early 1950’s.” 

Not all isolationists were reactionaries by any means. 
Quite a number were liberals, and even Socialists, whose 
pacifist beliefs could not be altered even though the po- 
tential enemy was Nazi Germany. One such was Norman 
Thomas, who had appeared with Lindbergh at a number 
of antiwar rallies around the country. The Socialist leader, 

♦Wayne S. Cole, Charles A. Lindbergh and the Battle Against 
American Intervention in World War 11 (New York: Harcourt 
Brace Jovanovich, 1975). 



164 



VICTOR LASKY 



who was embarrassed by Lindbergh’s reference to Jews, 
said in his defense that the flier was “not as anti-Semitic as 
some who seize the opportunity to criticize him.” 

Thomas could well have been referring to FDR him- 
self. For the President, though strongly backed by Jews 
throughout his political career, was given to anti-Semitic 
outbursts. Walter Trohan, the veteran Washington corre- 
spondent, tells of one episode involving Governor Herbert 
Lehman of New York.* The year was 1937, after FDR 
had proposed “packing” the Supreme Court. Lehman, 
though a stalwart New Dealer, spoke out against the pro- 
posal. 

Roosevelt, who was at Hyde Park at the time, was asked 
what he had to say about Lehman’s statement. He lost his 
smile and snapped: “What I have to say will have to be 
off the record.” 

The correspondents had no choice but to agree. But 
they were taken aback when the President thrust out his 
chin and sneered: “What else could you expect from a 
Jew?”** 

But probably FDR’s shabbiest act was his refusal to per- 
mit a German ship carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees 
to unload its human cargo in the United States. This was 
in 1939. The refugees, who had also been refused entry 
into Cuba, were returned, to Europe where many of them 
perished in the Nazi holocaust. Why did FDR turn these 
pitiful people back? The best answer seems to be that he 
was unwilling to buck American public opinion. 

One of those who bitterly condemned FDR for turning 
back the refugees was Norman Thomas, who had been ap- 
pearing at America First rallies around the country. The 

♦In his Political Animals (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), 
p. 99. 

♦♦FDR’s successor, Harry S Truman, also indulged in occasional 
anti-Semitic slurs. A 1946 entry in the diaries of Henry A. Wallace, 
recently unveiled by the University of Iowa, pictures an exasperated 
Truman trying to cope with Zionist pressures for an independent 
state of Israel. “President Truman expressed himself as being very 
much ‘put out* with the Jews,” wrote Wallace, then Secretary of 
Commerce, after a Cabinet luncheon. “He said that ‘Jesus Christ 
couldn’t please them when he was here on earth, so how could 
anyone expect that I would have any luck?’ President Truman said 
he had no use for them and didn’t care what happened to them.” 
Of course, HST’s anger cooled and in 1948, despite State Depart- 
ment opposition, he approved the founding of the new Jewish state. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 165 

antiwar movement was growing by leaps and bounds. It 
attracted adherents of varied opinions (including some 
who had been considered in the forefront of U.S. progres- 
sivism), such as William Benton, Harry Elmer Barnes, 
Charles A. Beard, Stuart Chase, Chester Bowles, John L. 
Lewis, John T. Flynn, and Oswald Garrison Villard. When 
Roosevelt announced his “shoot-on-sight” order (permit- 
ting U.S. vessels to fire on any hostile vessel), such 
luminaries as Philip C. Jessup, Edwin S. Corwin, Ray 
Lyman Wilbur, Charles A. Beard, and Igor Sikorsky 
signed a statement that called the new policy “a grave 
threat to the Constitutional powers of Congress and to the 
democratic principle of majority rule.” The order stood. 

FDR took the offensive, terming his critics, and partic- 
ularly Lindbergh, “Copperheads.” Thus, in effect, the 
President called them “traitors.” Not only that but, accord- 
ing to Cole, he ordered the wiretapping of their telephones; 
and he asked that telegrams criticizing his defense policies 
be sent to the FBI director for investigation and corre- 
spondence endorsing Lindbergh’s opposition to U.S. ships 
acting as convoys be filed by the Secret Service. Rarely had 
any legitimate movement of American citizens, none of 
whom had any links to any foreign power, faced such of- 
ficial hostility, abuse, and repression. But most liberals 
couldn’t have cared less. In fact they happily joined in the 
witch-hunt. 

Immediately after Pearl Harbor the America First Com- 
mittee went out of business. “No good purpose can now 
be served by considering what might have been,” the com- 
mittee stated. “We are at war . . . the primary objective is 
. . . victory.” Numerous leaders and members joined the 
Roosevelt administration for the duration of the war. The 
head of America First, Richard Stewart, along with Gen- 
eral Robert E. Wood, were soon serving in the armed 
forces, while Chester Bowles became head of the Office 
of Price Administration. However, though he volunteered, 
Lindbergh was not permitted to serve his country. Roose- 
velt was not having him back in the Air Corps unless he 
ate crow, apologizing for his antiwar views. This Lind- 
bergh would not do. 

Also sidelined for the war’s duration was Joe Kennedy, 
who had wired his Commander-in-Chief: “Name the battle- 
front. I’m yours to command.” The ambassador never 



166 



VICTOR LASKY 



heard from Roosevelt. So he devoted the war years to 
making money — and lots of it. 

As Norman Thomas noted, the Lindbergh case was one 
of the least attractive manifestations of FDR’s penchant 
for personal vendetta — a startling example of a great 
leader indulging in petty revenge and, in the process, 
nearly depriving the nation of the services of a leading 
aviation expert. But Lindbergh felt it his duty to serve. 
Without permission of Washington he became a civilian 
consultant to aircraft manufacturers and, as such, was sent 
on missions to Europe and the Pacific area in behalf of 
the U.S. Air Corps. On one occasion while flight-testing a 
Republic “Thunderbolt” fighter, he nearly lost his life. 
And, though a civilian, he flew combat missions against the 
Japanese. 

What the American Civil Liberties Union eventually 
would call “the worst single wholesale violation of civil 
rights of American citizens in our history” took place 
shortly after Pearl Harbor with Roosevelt’s approval. Over 
110,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry — 
both citizens and aliens — were forced out of their homes, 
their properties expropriated, and evacuated to internment 
camps guarded by troops. 

This extraordinary measure was taken as a result of pres- 
sures on the West Coast, where most of the Nisei lived. 
The fear was that the Japanese- Americans would engage 
in sabotage of vital installations. Doing most of the clamor- 
ing for the mass internments, unprecedented in American 
history, were such outspoken liberals as California’s Gover- 
nor Culbert L. Olson and Attorney General Earl Warren. 
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson gave approval after he 
had concluded that “their racial characteristics are such 
that we cannot understand or trust even the citizen Japa- 
nese.” 

Roosevelt signed the evacuation order, a move supported 
by Congress a month later. And the United States, officially 
at war with an ideology based on concentration camps, had 
its own concentration camps. Except for the likes of a tiny 
handful of civil libertarians including Norman Thomas, the 
liberal community was largely silent. The big Establish- 
ment newspapers for the most part said nothing. Walter 
Lippmann, normally so zealous of individual liberties, sup- 
ported measures on the grounds that the Pacific Coast was 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 167 

officially a battle zone and no one had a constitutional 
right to “do business on a battlefield.” His views were en- 
dorsed by Westbrook Pegler, who demanded that every 
Japanese should be under armed guard, “and to hell with 
habeas corpus until the danger is over.” 

Only a few congressmen tried to stem the tide of 
hysteria, the most notable being Senator Robert Taft. But 
the Ohio Republican’s plea for sanity was drowned out by 
what amounted to frenzied appeals to anti-yellow racism. 
Significantly J. Edgar Hoover had also sought to prevent 
the administration from going overboard against the Japa- 
nese-Americans. In a memorandum to Attorney General 
Francis Biddle, the director warned that “the necessity for 
mass evacuation is based primarily upon public hysteria 
and political pressure rather than on factual data.” 

Roosevelt even flirted with the idea of interning Ger- 
man aliens. But there was a problem, his Attorney General 
told him: there were so many of them, perhaps 600,000. 
“And you’re going to intern all of them?” Roosevelt asked. 
Not quite, replied Biddle. Roosevelt then said, “I don’t 
care so much about the Italians. They are a lot of opera 
singers, but the Germans are different, they may be dan- 
gerous.” Calmer heads prevailed, however, and there were 
no mass roundups as there had been of the Japanese. Per- 
haps, as some critics were to contend in years to come, 
racism did play a major role in determining who was to be 
interned. 

In his biography of Roosevelt during the war years, 
James MacGregor Burns analyzes the President’s peculiar 
ambivalence toward civil liberties.* The Williams College 
professor noted that “Roosevelt was not a strong civil 
libertarian. Like Jefferson in earlier days, he was all for 
civil liberties in general but easily found exceptions in 
particular.” 

According to Burns, Roosevelt told Biddle at a cabinet 
meeting that while civil liberties were okay for 99 percent 
of the American people, the Attorney General ought to 
bear down on the rest. “When Biddle pleaded that it was 
hard to get convictions, Roosevelt answered that when Lin- 
coln’s Attorney General would not proceed against Vallan- 

* Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom 1940-1945 (New York: Har- 
court Brace Jovanovich, 1970), pp. 216-217. 



168 



VICTOR LASKY 



digham, Lincoln declared martial law in that county and 
then had Vallandigham tried by a drumhead court-martial. 
Earlier he had treated Biddle’s earnest support of civil 
liberties as a joking matter. . . .” 

“Indeed,” Burns continued, “Roosevelt seemed to enjoy 
shocking the shy Philadelphian. Once, when J. Edgar 
Hoover confessed to the President, in the Attorney Gen- 
eral’s presence, that an FBI agent had tried to tap the 
telephone wire of left-wing union leader Harry Bridges, and 
had been caught in the act, Roosevelt roared with laughter, 
slapped Hoover on the back, and shouted gleefully, ‘By 
God, Edgar, that’s the first time you’ve been caught with 
your pants down!’ ” 

“To be sure,” Burns contended, “Roosevelt’s civil liber- 
ties derelictions were not numerous, but certainly the war- 
time White House was not dependably a source of strong 
and sustained support for civil liberties in specific situa- 
tions.” 

Most assuredly not, but how certain can Professor Burns 
be about the number of derelictions under Roosevelt? By 
his own accounting they were indeed extensive. The tragedy 
that befell innocent Americans of Japanese descent vio- 
lated every guarantee in the American Constitution. And 
only now, as a result of such revelations as the Sullivan 
memorandum, are we beginning to learn the extent to 
which FDR misused the FBI for political and/or personal 
purposes. As for wiretapping and “bugging,” the record 
clearly demonstrates FDR’s fondness for such illegal gath- 
ering of information. 

In May 1973 at the height of the controversy over 
Watergate, Bob Considine asked John Roosevelt, the 
President’s youngest son, what he thought about the scan- 
dal. John Roosevelt responded, “I can’t understand all the 
commotion in this case. Hell, my father just about invented 
bugging. Had them spread all over, and thought nothing 
of it.” 

In retrospect, therefore, under the presidential impeach- 
ment standards that became so popular against President 
Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt could have been put on trial 
by the Senate for violating civil liberties in wholesale 
fashion; suborning illegalities by having antiwar and other 
political opponents wiretapped and “bugged”; and waging 
an undeclared war against Germany, Italy, and Japan, thus 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 169 

making a mockery of his own “neutrality” pledges written 
into law. In addition FDR repeatedly lied to the Ameri- 
can people, as when he gave them “one more assurance. 
. . . Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign 
wars.” 

Roosevelt’s campaign to destroy the Supreme Court 
by “packing” it with rubber stamp justices would have 
been enough, in today’s climate of opinion, to have justified 
impeachment proceedings. It was a blow against the inde- 
pendence of a coordinate branch unrivaled by any earlier 
or later President. According to Arthur Krock, FDR was 
even prepared to defy the High Court. This was in 1935, 
when the court was considering an act of Congress which, 
at Roosevelt’s behest, had canceled the gold repayment 
clause in contracts both private and governmental. Fearing 
the act would be overturned, FDR composed a “fireside 
chat” to announce he would not comply, citing the Golden 
Rule, the Scriptures, and “the dictates of common sense” 
— but not the Constitution, As it turned out, the court 
narrowly upheld the act. FDR confided to an aide: “The 
nation will never know what a great treat it missed in not 
hearing the marvelous radio address.” 

But for sheer eyebrow-lifting arrogance there was the 
way in which FDR used his high office to assist his sons, 
James and Elliott, in efforts to make their fortunes. All any- 
one who wanted important favors from the administration 
had to do was take out insurance in a firm in which James 
was a parftner. Thus Pan American Airways insured many 
of its new Pacific clippers with the Roosevelt company. As 
did the Columbia Broadcasting System, dependent for its 
life on government license. The Fox Theater Building in 
Los Angeles stood on land that required title insurance; 
Joe Schenck, a Fox official, was in the slammer at the 
time and seeking a federal pardon. The broker who had 
negotiated a $315,000 policy on the land was told that the 
Roosevelt company would take over this business. In all, 
according to an article in the Saturday Evening Post , James 
Roosevelt made over $1 million from his insurance com- 
pany at the height of the Depression. 

Even more horrendous in his wheeling-and-dealing, al- 
ways using his White House connections, was Elliott Roose- 
velt. On one occasion Elliott had his father talk by phone 
with the principal owner of the Atlantic and Pacific Tea 



170 



VICTOR LASKY 



Company, John Hartford, to suggest that a $200,000 loan 
to his son would be “appreciated.” The A&P was then 
under attack by New Deal Congressman Wright Patman 
of Texas, who had been talking about hitting such chain 
store operations with more taxes. 

So what’s a businessman to do under these extraordinary 
circumstances? Well, Hartford did it. The next day he 
gave Elliott a check for $200,000 and accepted a block of 
radio stock as collateral. This was in 1939. Hartford, who 
knew that it was a bad loan, never did hear from Elliott 
again personally. But that was all right, as he later told a 
congressional committee, since he figured that by making 
the loan, he was “being taken off the hook.” 

In 1942 FDR asked Jesse Jones, the head of the Recon- 
struction Finance Corporation, to straighten out Elliott’s 
financial problems. Jones met with Hartford and convinced 
him to accept a $4,000 settlement, writing off the $196,000 
loss on his income tax returns. As part of the deal Hartford 
returned the radio stock. Later it developed that the stock 
was worth around $1 million. The President sent the stock 
to Elliott’s divorced second wife, half for herself and half 
in trust for the children. 

As John T. Flynn noted in his antagonistic biography 
The Roosevelt Myth , “It is probable that in all the history 
of the government this was the first time that such a trick 
was turned by an American president and by one who ex- 
hibited himself before the people as the most righteous 
paragon of moral and political excellence that had ever oc- 
cupied that office.” 

There was, of course, critical publicity about this un- 
savory episode; but there was no congressional or public 
outcry about its constituting such gross misuse of presi- 
dential influence as to warrant impeachment proceedings. 

Which raises the question: How did FDR escape the in- 
dignation and rebellion against the inflation of presidental 
powers that eventually brought down Nixon? 

For one thing, the nation was in an all-out war (one 
which some critics claimed FDR deliberately helped get us 
into in the first place), a tough, widespread conflict fought 
on various oceans and continents. And whatever else can 
be said of him, Franklin Roosevelt was a superb Com- 
mander-in-Chief, one whose vibrant voice inspired con- 
fidence at a crucial time. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 171 

Then, too, Roosevelt had a completely subservient Con- 
gress, one overwhelmingly controlled by his own party. 
Moreover he was a superb party leader as well as an expert 
at dispensing patronage in the right places. 

FDR had also won over most of the Washington press 
corps. Except for a handful of “reactionaries” who worked 
for such papers as the Chicago Tribune , most of the report- 
ers covering the White House considered the President to 
be beyond reproach. Anti-New Dealers among corre- 
spondents were actually shunned by their more numerous 
colleagues. On one occasion Roosevelt himself figuratively 
pinned an Iron Cross on an anti-war columnist. The mes- 
sage was clear to would-be dissenters. 

But the main reason FDR got away with his assorted 
shenanigans was that most Americans, even if they had 
known of all of them, couldn’t have cared less. They looked 
at the man’s whole record and decided that getting out of 
the lingering economic depression was far more important 
to them than lofty debates about the misuse of presidential 
powers. Of course it could have been argued (as it was) 
that the New Deal was only succeeding in finally eradicat- 
ing mass unemployment by plunging the nation into war. 
But for many Americans then eking out a meager existence, 
that at best was an academic argument. It was only later, 
with the nation reaching its greatest affluence in history 
in conditions of peace, that the American people could 
afford the luxury of driving a President out of office. 

Despite the violent resentments and vitriolic attacks that 
he inspired, there was never any serious effort to oust 
Roosevelt from office. If anything, thanks to a clever and 
often unscrupulous propaganda campaign directed by the 
White House, his opponents were depicted as “appeasers,” 
“Fascists,” “economic royalists,” and much worse. And 
the majority of Americans loved it, as they demonstrated 
when he permitted himself to be drafted for an unprece- 
dented third term in 1940. FDR won easily, then repeating 
his triumph — a dying man — in 1944. And today, because 
historians like Arthur Schlesinger and James MacGregor 
Burns were so enamored of FDR’s strong presidency, a 
monumental bibliography attests to his greatness. 

But some intellectuals are having second thoughts. As 
Professor Philip Kurland, a constitutional scholar at the 
University of Chicago Law School, has observed: “When 



172 



VICTOR LASKY 



it is a President with what has come to be called ‘charisma,’ 
a Franklin Delano Roosevelt or a John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 
some of us have applauded the seizure of power by the 
President. When that office is occupied by one whose ob- 
jectives are less to our tastes, we deplore the power that 
has become his to exercise.” 

Thus when Richard Nixon charged that his administra- 
tion was being judged by a double standard, it could be 
argued that he was indulging in uncharacteristic understate- 
ment. 

Of course FDR has all but joined the deities on Olym- 
pus. When the Nixon tapes were published, former FDR 
aides insisted that the level of discussion in their White 
House was far more elevated. According to James Rowe, 
Jr., for example, FDR ruled the White House with “un- 
diluted charm”; and he added, “I cannot ever remember 
hearing him swear.” Yet some of the conversations be- 
tween FDR and his aides were hardly charming. 

On April 30, 1943 — according to contemporaneous notes 
taken by his administrative assistant (and later press sec- 
retary) Jonathan Daniels — there was a discussion of the 
Fair Employment Practices Committee, reluctantly set up 
by FDR under Negro pressure. Also present in the Oval 
Office were Marvin McIntyre, a secretary to the President, 
and Elmer Davis, director of the Office of War Informa- 
tion. FDR agreed to Daniels’s suggestion that FEPC prob- 
lems “be centered in McIntyre rather than have several 
people around town fooling with it.”* Daniels also pro- 
posed that the matter be settled before President Edwin 
Barclay of Liberia arrived in Washington for a visit. 

Which reminded Roosevelt of his trip to Liberia follow- 
ing the Casablanca conference. While there, the President 
said he had talked to some medical officers who were ap- 
palled by the venereal disease rate among our Negro troops. 

“I suppose it must be ten or twelve percent,” the Presi- 
dent said to one of the officers. 

“Ten or twelve!” said the officer. “It’s seventy-five per- 
cent.” 

The same officer had told the President that the venereal 
disease rate among Liberians was 100 percent. 

♦This story and others are told in Jonathan Daniels’s, White House 
Witness : 1942-1945 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975). 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 173 

“I suppose,” FDR added, “they all get it before they 
are grown, as I understand there is no such thing as chastity 
in Liberia after the age of five or six.” 

Whereupon Elmer Davis wondered about President Bar-~ 
clay’s condition. After all, he was coming for a stay at the 
White House. Davis suggested that they could wash off the 
toilet seat with Lysol. Following the war, Davis became 
one of American liberalism’s most powerful voices on 
radio.* 

According to Daniels, the conversation shifted in content 
but not in bawdiness. Davis said he had been having a row 
with the War Department, which had been grabbing off 
much of the rubber supply. As a result there was a shortage 
of elastic and women were bitterly complaining that they 
weren’t able to keep their pants up. Davis said that the 
OWI had suggested to the War Department that if the army 
kept its soldiers at home at night it wouldn’t make any 
difference. 

“Such is the conversation in the presidential office on 
occasion,” wrote Daniels. 

On July 29, 1943, another “charming” discussion was 
held in the Oval Office. Present, besides the President and 
Daniels, was Welch Pogue, chairman of the Civil Aero- 
nautics Board. Roosevelt got right to the point. He wanted 
to talk about the airline situation. He said he had discussed 
with the British, when Chamberlain was prime minister, 
the development of the West Indies — British, American, 
Dutch, and French. And the way to do it, he said, was 
through the tourist. In other words, he added, he wanted 
those islands to produce more than “sugar and niggers.” 

On January 13, 1944, Daniels conferred with FDR’s 
press secretary Stephen Early about adverse publicity Harry 
Hopkins had been receiving in connection with allegations 
that he had received a “jeweled payoff” from Lord Beaver- 
brook for having helped push through a multibillion-dollar 
Lend-Lease program to assist the beleaguered British. The 
allegations, first published in the anti-administration Wash- 
ington Times-Herald , were picked up by Republican lead- 
ers, who demanded an explanation. Hopkins, of course, 
was FDR’s most intimate adviser. And his wife issued a 

♦In 1976, Earl Butz was forced to resign as Gerald Ford’s Secre- 
tary of Agriculture because he told an anti-Black joke in private. 



174 VICTOR LASKY 

denial. “I don’t even own one emerald,” she said. “It’s a 
lie. I never owned an emerald and don’t own one now.” 
In what seemed to be a White House denial, Early himself 
spoke of “the malicious rumors and statements now being 
published by certain newspapers hostile to the Government 
and to certain officials of the Government.” 

But Early had a different story to tell Daniels that frosty 
January morning. “The trouble is to find a clean spot on 
Harry anywhere,” he said. The Beaverbrook jewels couldn’t 
be explained away because, while they weren’t emeralds, 
they most certainly were diamonds. “I have seen them my- 
self,” Early went on. “Fortunately for Harry they were an- 
tique diamond clips which had been in Beaverbrook’s fam- 
ily for some time. Harry didn’t declare them and smuggled 
them into the country. He sent them over to [Assistant 
Secretary of the Treasury] Gaston and said he wanted a 
statement from them to the effect that they were declared 
for duty and what about it. They had them appraised and 
examined and established the fact that they were antique 
and, as such, not subject to duty.” 

Dirty tricks as practiced in Roosevelt’s time were also 
described by Daniels. It seems that while Vice President 
Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture, he had written a 
number of letters indicating that he was receiving inspira- 
tion for government policies from the spirit world. As 
David Niles, a presidential troubleshooter, told the story 
to Daniels on August 3, 1943, the letters had fallen into 
Republican hands sometime during the 1940 campaign 
when FDR was running against Wendell Willkie. 

A medium who had been fired from Agriculture ap- 
parently stole the letters right out of Wallace’s files. Roy 
Howard was offered them for publication; though a good 
Republican he turned them down. The letters finally were 
purchased by another publisher, Paul Block, who sent a 
reporter to confront Wallace with them. Niles added: 
“We were afraid that Wallace, being an honest guy, would 
say, ‘Yes, I wrote them — so what?’ ” 

“Morris Ernst,” Niles went on, “did a good job. He 
was sent West to meet Wallace, who was coming to 
Chicago, to see to it that this reporter didn’t get to Wallace. 
Every day the Democrats expected the story to break. I 
must have lost fifty pounds in three weeks. We went out 
and dug up some dirty stuff on Willkie, with photographs 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 175 

showing that WiUkie’s father had been buried in potter’s 
field as a drunkard with whom Willkie would have noth- 
ing to do. Only after the presidential campaign began did 
he have his body moved to a decent part of the cemetery. 

We let the Republicans know that if they used the Wallace 
stuff, we were going to use the stuff on Willkie. The Wal- 
lace letters were never used, but they are still in the posses- 
sion of the Republicans.” 

The various Roosevelt campaigns were rough indeed. 
Former GOP chairman John D.M. Hamilton contends, for 
example, that his office was bugged when he was cam- 
paign manager for Alfred Landon’s presidential race in ^ • 
1936. Hamilton claims that the bugging was ordered by 
FDR’s Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who was 
known to have a penchant for illegal eavesdropping. The 
bugging in Hamilton’s office was quickly discovered by the 
GOP’s security expert. “We never announced anything or 
made any public charges,” Hamilton told the National 
Observer . “We just used that phone to leak out wrong in- 
formation to the Democrats to make them look silly, and 
when we wanted to say anything private, we went to an- 
other phone.” 

Hamilton Fish, who served as a New York congressman 
from 1921 to 1945, was a Republican high on FDR’s 
“enemies” list. Though a fellow Harvard man and fellow 
mid-Hudson politician. Fish was barred from the White 
House because, FDR believed, he had made a nasty re- 
mark about the President’s mother. This Fish denies. But 
the fact remains that Fish was an opponent of the New 
Deal who had built a following around the country. And, 
as war clouds thickened, Fish was one of the more vocifer- 
ous leaders of the antiwar movement. 

Almost from the beginning of FDR’s reign he found 
himself harassed because of his anti-New Deal views, says 
Fish. In a letter to The New York Times at the height of 
the Ervin hearings, Fish recalled “a telephone call from 
Senator Reed in the nineteen-thirties to tell me that my 
phone was being tapped, and so were those of many other 
Republican members of Congress. . . .” 

Two weeks before the outbreak of World War II Fish 
attended an interparliamentary conference in Norway as 
chairman of a congressional group where, he says, he “was 
promptly spied upon by our own Government. Reports of 



176 



VICTOR LASKY 



my visits with British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax and 
French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet are now resting 
in the archives of the State Department.” 

“And speaking of ‘enemies,’ ” Fish continued, “no one 
had more political enemies than the highly vindictive 
FDR. I was one of them, and for five years my income 
tax reports were minutely investigated (as were my wife’s). 
That effort occupied at least half a dozen Internal Revenue 
agents and must have cost at least $50,000. The result: 

I got an $80 refund. 

“You might ask why I didn’t complain to Speaker Ray- 
burn when I found out that my wires were being tapped. 
There is a simple answer: He would have told me that 
there was nothing I could do about it. 

“And this sums up the situation. During all of the Roose- 
velt and most of the Johnson Administrations, the Dem- 
ocrats controlled Congress, so no matter what a Democratic 
President would do, there was no chance whatever of hav- 
ing an open investigation, much less one broadcast na- 
tionwide on television.” 

Roosevelt had also ordered the FBI to put taps on the 
home telephones of several of his own top advisers, includ- 
ing Hopkins and Tommy “The Cork” Corcoran. FDR 
suspected that Hopkins’s wife was leaking anti-administra- 
tion information to the Washington Times-Herald, pub- 
lished by the rabidly anti-New Deal Eleanor (“Cissy”) 
Patterson. Needless to say, there was no love lost between 
the President and this lady. When Morris Ernst wrote him 
saying he was going to interview the publisher on behalf of 
his client Walter Winchell and proposed to “examine Cissy 
down to her undies,” the President asked not to be present 
on that occasion — “I have a weak stomach.” Mrs. Patter- 
son, incidentally, believed that she was being wiretapped; 
but there is nothing in FBI records to indicate that, if 
true, the Bureau had anything to do with it. 

When Truman became President in 1945, he instructed 
his military aide, Brigadier General Harry Vaughan, to 
deal directly with J. Edgar Hoover. As a result Vaughan 
began receiving transcripts of the taps on FDR’s aides. 
According to Vaughan, he showed Truman a transcript 
of the tap on Corcoran. The new President was most un- 
impressed. In fact he was horrified when he glanced at one 
transcript which was mainly about Mrs. Corcoran making 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 177 

appointments with her hairdresser. “Well, I don’t give a 
goddam whether Mrs. Corcoran gets her hair fixed or 
doesn’t get her hair fixed,” Truman told Vaughan. “What 
the hell is that crap?” 

“It’s a wiretap,” Vaughan replied. 

“Cut them all off,” the President said angrily. “Tell the 
FBI we haven’t got any time for that kind of shit.” 

But the tap on Corcoran was not cut off. For Corcoran’s 
activities reportedly chagrined Truman on the grounds that 
they might “interfere with the proper administration of 
government.” According to the Senate Intelligence Com- 
mittee, “More than 175 reports overheard on the wiretap, 
which continued until 1948, were delivered to the Truman 
White House.” 

As the French say: The more things change, the more 
they remain the same. 



THIRTEEN 



In an editorial published on March 4, 1975 — seven months 
after Richard Nixon left for his self-imposed “exile” in 
San Clemente — the Washington Star had this to say: 
“Watergate investigators who so diligently dug into mis- 
use of government agencies by the Nixon Administration 
managed, either accidentally or deliberately, to overlook 
or play down flagrant abuses by previous administrations.” 
For the moment let us rest the role of the media itself 
in participating in what amounted to a massive cover-up of 
the political excesses and abuses of power of presidents 
who preceded Nixon. Suffice it to say that when evidence 
of such transgressions occasionally turned up in the course 
of investigations conducted by the Watergate Committee, 
for example, the nation’s leading newspapers and television 
networks, for the most part, decided to ignore them. 
And, for the most part, they still do. 

In the same editorial the Star also said, in connection 
with high-level misuse of the FBI for political purposes: 
“One of the worst White House offenders appears to have 
been Lyndon Johnson.” 

This was pretty much the expert judgment of William 
Sullivan, formerly number three man at the FBI, who of- 
fered to testify before the Watergate Committee on behalf 
of the Nixon administration in order to “draw a very 
clear contrast” between its relationship with the FBI and 
that of previous administrations. At the time Sullivan told 
John Dean that his documented testimony would place the 
Nixon administration in “a very favorable light.” 

But the Democratic-controlled committee wasn’t buying. 
Chairman Ervin explained that his mandate was to in- 
vestigate the 1972 election and nothing else. There was 
no way that committee Republicans (or at least two of 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 179 

them) could budge the Great Constitutionalist. They just 
didn’t have the votes. 

According to the Sullivan memorandum, Johnson went 
much further than FDR in misusing the FBI. He had no 
hesitation about using the Bureau for personal investiga- 
tions. Thus when Don Reynolds testified about kickbacks 
extorted from him in connection with life insurance policies 
he had sold Johnson, the President called for a thorough 
investigation of the insurance salesman. Among other 
things LBJ wanted the FBI to determine whether the Re- 
publicans had given Reynolds $25,000 for “bribery pur- 
poses.” After running a check, the FBI reported no. But 
the Bureau (as did other investigatory agencies) did turn 
up some embarrassing personal information about Rey- 
nolds which the White House leaked to friendly newsmen. 

Johnson also ordered top FBI officials to get him any- 
thing and everything about his 1964 Republican op- 
ponent, because Goldwater was a major general in the Air 
Force Reserve and, according to LBJ, had more “secrets” 
than “we have in the White House.” 

According to Sullivan, Johnson would rely on “devious 
and complex” ways to “ask the FBI for derogatory infor- 
mation of one type or another on Senators in his own 
Democratic Party who were opposing him. This informa- 
tion he would give to Republican Senator Dirksen, who 
would use it with telling effect.” 

While the memo did not go into detail as to the kind 
of FBI information LBJ had provided the Senate Minority 
Leader, all indications were that the targets of the Dirksen 
assaults were legislators who opposed the President on 
Vietnam. Needless to say, the President had every right to 
zero in on adversaries even within his own party. Ques- 
tionable, however, was the use he made of supposedly con- 
fidential information obtained by the FBI. This was in- 
formation he was not entitled to in the first place. More- 
over it was intelligence which the FBI should never have 
gathered. 

In retrospect it is ironic that LBJ, who did so much to 
manipulate the FBI for improper purposes, himself feared 
Hoover’s power. “I would rather have him inside the tent 
pissing out than outside the tent pissing in,” the President 
once said. And, according to the Sullivan memorandum, 



180 



VICTOR LASKY 



LBJ was constantly asking whether the FBI had a wiretap 
on his phone. 

But where LBJ really went overboard in violating all 
the rules was in ordering the FBI to set up a special squad 
to be used personally by him at both the 1964 and 1968 
Democratic National Conventions. “The cover would be 
that it was a security squad to be used against militants,” 
wrote Sullivan. “Nothing of this scope had ever been done 
before or since to my memory.” And that, of course, ap- 
plies to the Nixon administration. 

Heading the thirty-one member “special squad” at At- 
lantic City, where the 1964 convention was held, was 
Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, then the FBI’s liaison with LBJ. 

The major assignment of the FBI task force was to set 
up electronic surveillance of several civil rights leaders, in- 
cluding Dr. Martin Luther King. At LBJ’s direction “bugs” 
and wiretaps were installed in the hotel suite occupied by 
King and in a storefront that was used as a headquarters by 
several civil rights groups. Also monitored by electronic 
devices were James Farmer, then national director of the 
Congress of Racial Equality and later a high Nixon of- 
ficial, and Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, another civil rights 
activist. 

The information gathered by the surveillances was re- 
ported directly to Johnson by DeLoach, on a direct tele- 
phone line to the Oval Office specially installed to bypass 
the White House switchboard. The President was given in- 
formation on these electronic surveillances on almost an 
hourly basis all during convention week. Johnson’s ap- 
petite for such information was insatiable. 

That information included the doings of Attorney Gen- 
eral Kennedy, especially what he was saying to King and 
others in the civil rights movement. This also involved 
physical surveillance of those delegates friendly to the 
Kennedy family. At the time the President was fearful — 
with some justification — that Bobby might seek to stampede 
the delegates into supporting him for Vice President. 

Nevertheless Dr. King’s civil liberties — among other 
things, his right to privacy — were most definitely violated 
by an Imperial presidency gone bananas. 

It was particularly ironic that the 1964 wiretapping and 
bugging involved both King and Kennedy, since the latter, 
as Attorney General, had ordered an earlier tap on the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 181 

civil rights leader because of allegations that a Soviet- 
connected Communist was in his entourage. 

Another irony was that nine years later the Watergate 
Committee was fully apprised of these shocking viola- 
tions of political morality by the Johnson administration. 
Yet Chairman Ervin refused to permit the release of a staff 
memorandum on the subject, on the spurious grounds that 
the committee had not been empowered to look into any- 
thing but the 1972 election. That supposedly ironbound rule 
did not prevent the committee from publicizing Nixon mis- 
deeds of preceding years. 

The long-buried memo finally surfaced when Ronald 
Kessler of the Washington Post learned of its existence. 
On January 26, 1975, the Post published details of the 
document, which had summarized a 1973 interview with 
the former agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Atlantic 
City. 

The former agent, Leo Clark, was quoted as saying that 
the FBI operation was designed to gather intelligence on 
potential violence or disruptions at the convention. But, he 
conceded, he had been instructed by DeLoach not to in- 
form the Secret Service of the operation, even though it 
supposedly was in charge of protecting the President. Nor 
was he to discuss the electronic surveillance with the FBI’s 
Newark office, which was supposed to have coordinated 
security at the convention. 

And there were these additional details: 

On instructions from DeLoach, Clark determined where 
Dr. King and Jim Farmer would be staying while attend- 
ing the convention. Clark said he was also told to check the 
whereabouts of other civil rights leaders with surveillance 
in mind. 

After learning that King would be stopping at the 
Claridge Hotel, Clark was instructed to survey the build- 
ing to determine the feasibiilty of installing wiretaps as well 
as microphone (bug) surveillance. Clark then arranged 
with the hotel management to provide King with adjoining 
rooms 1901, 1902, and 1903. Prior to King’s arrival these 
rooms were surveyed by two FBI technical men. 

Clark reserved a room for himself, a floor below King’s 
suite. He said his room was used to monitor transmissions 
of wiretaps and bugs from Dr. King’s quarters, as well as 
from an Atlantic Avenue storefront used by CORE and 



182 



VICTOR LASKY 



other groups. Though Clark did not say so, obviously a 
break-in had been necessary to install the electronic equip- 
ment at the storefront. 

The conversations were monitored on a twenty-four- 
hour basis by FBI agents as well as tape-recorded. The 
information was transmitted by telephone to DeLoach and 
two other agents at a control center on the second floor 
of the old Post Office Building. According to the commit- 
tee memo, Clark recalled 

overhearing DeLoach speaking on the telephone to 
President Johnson and to Director Hoover, giving 
them summary information from the technical sur- 
veillance. 

In a DeLoach conversation with the President, 
Clark heard mention of discussions concerning the 
seating of delegates or delegations, of vice presidential 
candidate possibilities, and the identities of Congress- 
men and Senators going in and out of King’s quarters. 

Robert Kennedy’s activities were of special interest, 
including his contacts with King. There was particular 
interest in learning who was seeking the support of 
the black leaders and the maneuvering of the black 
factions with regard to the seating of the Mississippi 
delegations. 

The FBI also relied on paid informants, who infiltrated 
liberal and Black organizations and reported on their do- 
ings to DeLoach as well as FBI supervisor Elmer Todd. 
One of those paid informants was none other than Julius 
Hobson, who later became one of Washington’s more 
militant Black spokesmen.* Among Hobson’s assignments 
was reporting regularly on the challenge by the Negro-led 
Freedom Democratic party of Mississippi, which sent its 
own delegation to Atlantic City to demand that it be seated 
instead of the Jim Crow “Regulars.” 

Johnson was particularly interested in what was taking 
place inside the primarily Black delegation because he 
feared it might threaten the tight control he had over the 

♦An embarrassed Hobson later admitted to being paid $200 by the 
FBI, but he denied giving the Bureau any vital information. FBI 
sources, however, termed him “very productive.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 183 

convention. For one thing the President feared that the 
picketing by civil rights activists in behalf of unseating 
the mostly white “Regulars” would mar the facade of 
Democratic unity he was hoping to demonstrate to the 
country. 

And, as Tom Wicker was to observe eleven years later 
in The New York Times , “There is no great difference in 
wiretapping the Democratic National Committee and the 
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.” 

“In one sense,” Wicker went on, “it might even be to 
Mr. Nixon’s credit that he used his private ‘plumbers’ in 
1972 rather than perverting the FBI as Lyndon Johnson 
appears to have done in 1964. Nor does it seem likely 
that Mr. Nixon knew more of what was being done in his 
service than Mr. Johnson did, or President Kennedy before 
that.” 

At the 1964 Democratic Convention the FBI got false 
press credentials through NBC and thus was able to insert 
agents, posing as reporters, within left-wing and civil rights 
groups. According to an official FBI document, the agents 
“were furnished with NBC press credentials” through “co- 
operation with the management of NBC News.”* A report 
on convention activities, written by DeLoach on August 29, 
1964, contained these paragraphs: 

Additionally, we utilized a highly successful cover 
through cooperation of the (deleted) furnished us 
credentials. I selected several members of the squad 
to use this cover. As an example, one of our “re- 
porters” was able to gain the confidence (deleted). 

Our “reporter” was so successful, in fact, that (de- 
leted) “off the record information” for background 
purposes, which he requested our “reporter” not to 
print. 

♦NBC, in a statement by its chairman Julian Goodman, said that a 
company investigation had found nothing to corroborate the claim 
that FBI agents had received press credentials from the network, 
permitting them to pose as newsmen at the 1964 Democratic Con- 
vention. The New York Times, which carried the statement on No- 
vember 23, 1975, quoted “executives at NBC News’* as suggesting 
the possibility that the Democratic National Committee had pro- 
vided the FBI with false NBC identification. The DNC, which had 
been playing the martyr’s role since Watergate, said nothing. Obvious- 
ly no one wanted to take responsibility for this “dirty trick.” 



184 



VICTOR LASKY 



One of our (deleted) successfully established con- 
tact with (deleted) Saturday night, August 22nd, and 
maintained this relationship throughout the course of 
the entire Convention. By midweek, he had become 
one of (deleted) confidants. This, of course, proved 
to be a highly valuable source of intelligence since (de- 
leted) was constantly trying to incite racial groups 
to violence. . . . 

During the period when the Convention was actual- 
ly in progress, we established a secondary command 
post at the Convention Hall Rotunda operated by an 
Agent using his “reporter” cover. As you know, the 
boardwalk was the center of agitation by dissident 
elements. Throughout the course of the Convention, 
pickets were active in the area immediately in front 
of the Convention Hall entrance. We necessarily kept 
these people under close observation.* 

Counsel for the Freedom Democrats was none other 
than LBJ’s old nemesis, Joe Rauh, and that was enough 
to trigger one of the President’s tirades. When Rauh re- 
jected a compromise proposed by LBJ confidant Fortas, 
the President himself ordered Walter Reuther to fly to At- 
lantic City and force Rauh, who was serving as counsel 
to the United Auto Workers, to accept it. 

Not that LBJ gave a damn about the almost lily-white 
Mississippi delegation. He felt sure that, on returning 
home, it would wind up supporting Goldwater, which it 
did. But he believed that the militants were only interested 
in getting television coverage which would embarrass him. 
And, in fact, they were succeeding. A reporter later wrote 
that a top executive of one of the major TV networks was 
pushed into swift action when his secretary told him the 
White House was calling. “Get your goddam cameras off 
the niggers out front and back on the speaker’s stand in- 
side, goddam it!” the President shouted on the phone. With- 
in minutes those cameras left the pickets on the outside 
of Convention Hall and began focusing on the tedium of 
the speaker’s platform! 

♦The deletions were made in the reproductions of the DeLoach 
memorandum published in Volume 6 of the hearings conducted 
by the Senate Intelligence (Committee on the activities of the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, pp. 496-497. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 185 

As it turned out, the conflicts were resolved quietly and 
commentators on the scene marveled at the perfect control 
Johnson appeared to be exerting on the proceedings from 
the White House. “The interesting question is why he had 
such complete control,” wrote Walter Lippmann at the 
conclusion of the convention. “Quite evidently he is a 
great politician, but what is the secret of his greatness as a 
politician?” 

It took a decade before the secret was learned. LBJ had 
known almost everything about what his possible opponents 
were doing and saying, unbeknownst to them. He had as 
much mastery over the proceedings as the Kremlin does 
at one of its “historic” gatherings. Nothing was left to 
chance. Even the contents of the convention’s souvenir 
book required his approval. A White House aide was back- 
stage to control the duration of the applause whenever 
LBJ’s name was mentioned. Film clips shown to the 
delegates were to be cropped of all shots of Bobby Ken- 
nedy; and a documentary on the late President Kennedy, 
which was supposed to have been shown the first night, 
was not projected until the night after the nominations lest 
a groundswell be touched off for Bobby. Moreover the plat- 
form committee could not make a move without LBJ’s 
approval. Among the planks he rejected were those call- 
ing for “peaceful demonstrations,” legislative reapportion- 
ment, and disarmament. 

Those who attended the uncontested convention, as did 
this writer, can only agree that it was probably one of the 
dullest ever held by either party. Which makes the FBI 
response to the Washington Post disclosure even more 
shocking. “As a result of a request from the White 
House,” a spokesman said, “the FBI did coordinate the 
development of intelligence information concerning the 
plans of subversive, criminal and hoodlum groups attempt- 
ing to disrupt the Democratic National Convention at 
Atlantic City in 1964.” 

There are several things wrong with this explanation. In 
the first place the targets weren’t hoodlums. They were 
well-known civil rights leaders, including Dr. King. Sec- 
ondly, if disruption had been the problem, then it didn’t 
make sense for the White House and the FBI to have cut 
out the Secret Service, the regional FBI office, the local 
police and, for that matter, Attorney General Kennedy. 



186 



VICTOR LASKY 



The shocking unlawfulness of the entire operation, as 
outlined by Leo Clark, who has since retired from the 
FBI after twenty-two years of service, is dramatized by the 
fact that Kennedy’s approval was never requested. Instead, 
DeLoach indicated, Johnson had given strict orders to by- 
pass the Attorney General. 

Even The New York Times , which had been leading its 
constituency to believe that Richard Nixon was guilty of 
inventing every evil since original sin, became upset by 
the Clark testimony: “If the strong inferences to be drawn 
from the former agent’s disclosure are correct, the 1964 
incident is an even graver offense than the original Water- 
gate break-in, for it represented the turning of a police in- 
strument of Government to illegal activities for political 
purposes.” 

And, as Tom Wicker observed in the Times , the ma- 
terial in the files of the Watergate Committee “lends 
credence to Senator Goldwater’s belief that, as Mr. John- 
son’s Republican opponent, he was wiretapped in 1964; and 
to Mr. Nixon’s charge that when he was running against 
Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Mr. Johnson — still in the 
White House — eavesdropped on the Republican candi- 
dates.” 

Gold water not only was wiretapped during the 1964 
campaign, but he discovered that his Washington apart- 
ment had been “bugged.” It had been an amateurish job and 
the Republican candidate quickly spotted the microphonic 
device in his living room. As he recalls the episode, he 
laughed and then yanked the “bug” out from behind a 
piece of furniture. After discussing the episode with aides, 
he forgot it during the heat of the campaign. 

But in retrospect Goldwater wonders just how the bug 
had been installed inside his apartment. Obviously a 
break-in cl la Watergate was involved. At the time he did 
not give the episode much thought, believing that was the 
way LBJ played the game. Nevertheless the candidate did 
warn Republican Chairman Dean Burch to make sure 
that LBJ’s spies didn’t “bug” national headquarters. Burch 
ordered certain offices soundproofed to prevent such hap- 
penings. And the entire headquarters was “swept” frequent- 
ly to ensure against bugs as well as wiretaps. 

At the height of the Watergate furor Goldwater told an 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 187 

Indianapolis press conference that if Democrats had been 
involved in a Watergate type of break-in, the media would 
have called it “cute” rather than criminal. “The press 
never goes after those things when it concerns a Demo- 
crat, just a Republican,” he added. 

“As far as cover-ups go,” the Arizonan went on, he be- 
lieved there was more of a cover-up involved at Chappa- 
quiddick. “If I had run that girl off that bridge, you 
wouldn’t have heard the end of it,” he said. 

Recalling 1964, Goldwater said, “I’m convinced that 
Johnson had my television speeches before I saw them. 
They seemed to know everything I was going to do, every- 
thing I was going to say. But again, if a Democrat does 
it, that’s cute.” 

That the Democrats had access to Goldwater’s speeches 
was confirmed by John Roche, a speechwriter for the 
Johnson-Humphrey campaign. “Somehow or other,” he 
wrote, “we used to get advance texts of Senator Goldwater’s 
key speeches. The consequence of this was that before 
Goldwater had even opened his mouth, we had five speakers 
primed to reply. Maybe he sent them over as a courtesy, 
but all I know is that when I innocently inquired how we 
got them, the reply was ‘don’t ask.’ ” 

One of the sources of the speeches apparently was none 
other than E. Howard Hunt, Jr., later convicted as one of 
the masterminds of the Watergate break-in. In 1964 Hunt 
was serving as chief of covert action for the CIA’s Do- 
mestic Operations Division. At that time he was ordered 
by C. Tracey Barnes to spy on Goldwater’s campaign 
headquarters. He set up a special unit and arranged for a 
daily pick-up of “any and all information” about Gold- 
water and his plans. These included advance copies of the 
candidate’s speeches, texts which often had not yet been 
made available to the press. 

According to Hunt, Barnes had received orders to spy on 
Goldwater directly from the President. Hunt also testified 
that the materials picked up at Republican headquarters, 
including press releases and travel schedules, were deliv- 
ered to White House aide Chester L. Cooper, a former 
CIA official. 

As a Goldwater Republican himself, Hunt said he was 
opposed to the assignment. In fact he was “shocked by this 



188 



VICTOR LASKY 



intrusion into Goldwater’s affairs.” But he was told that 
it didn’t make any difference, that “Johnson had ordered 
this activity and that Cooper would be the recipient of 
the information.” 

Cooper denied any knowledge of CIA surveillance of 
Goldwater, or even knowing Hunt. “I knew that we were 
getting Goldwater’s speeches . . . the stuff that was going 
to the press,” he said. “How the hell it got there, I don’t 
know.” 

Obviously someone’s memory appeared to be faulty — and 
only further probing by appropriate investigatory bodies 
could have helped ascertain the truth. But Chairman Ervin 
was not interested in digging into the sins of Democratic 
administrations. 

Part of the story was later confirmed, however. Testify- 
ing before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on 
November 6, 1975, CIA Director William Colby acknowl- 
edged that in 1964 a CIA official attached to the National 
Security Council prepared campaign material for Johnson 
and, with the help of another CIA employee, got advance 
texts of Goldwater’s speeches and reported regularly on 
the campaign to the CIA. The official was identified as 
Chester Cooper, than an assistant deputy director of in- 
telligence. The other employee, a woman secretary, had 
since retired. No mention was made of Howard Hunt. 

But, as Hunt later told The New York Times, he most 
definitely was involved in the CIA procurement of in- 
telligence on LBJ’s Republican opposition. And, explain- 
ing his involvement in Watergate, he added: “Since I’d 
done it once before for the CIA, why wouldn’t I do it 
again for the White House?” 

Hunt had also told all to Senator Howard Baker in the 
fall of 1973. Baker, a Republican member of the Water- 
gate Committee, along with Fred Thompson, the minority 
counsel, had been quizzing the former intelligence agent 
about the CIA’s domestic activities, seeking to determine 
whether there were any links between the Agency and 
Watergate. 

After news of what Hunt had said during the interview 
leaked in the press, Goldwater disclosed that he had been 
informed that Hunt and a team “that could have been as 
many as thirty people not just working on me, but working 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 189 

on other people, too” had operated out of offices in down- 
town Washington. That such an office existed, several 
blocks from the White House, has been established. The 
office was located in the National Press Building. There 
Hunt and his staff ran another CIA operation known as 
Continental Press, which funded “much of the activities 
of the Frederick D. Praeger Publishing Company in New 
York,” as well as supplying anti-Communist news articles 
to foreign clients. 

During the campaign, Goldwater said, he was aware that 
he was being kept under surveillance. “I just assumed it was 
one man or two men assigned at the direction of the 
President. ... It never bothered me. I never got upset 
about it. Oh, I guess (I) should have, but knowing John- 
son as I did. I never got upset about it. 

“I would naturally be concerned to learn what they did 
find out,” Goldwater added, “not that I did anything 
wrong.” 

Goldwater not only believed that LBJ had mounted 
espionage against him, but he feared that someone within 
his staff might be playing a double game. The possibility 
of a double agent in his headquarters was raised by an ex- 
traordinary episode: Goldwater had planned a speech an- 
nouncing the formation of a blue-chip GOP foreign policy 
advisory committee. Carefully guarded texts were given 
reporters on the candidate’s plane — in the air. When they 
landed, Goldwater discovered that LBJ had stolen his 
thunder by announcing his own such committee. And that 
was just too coincidental. 

“Too many funny things were going on,” recalls Victor 
Gold, assistant campaign press secretary. 

Talk about dirty tricks. Those used against the Arizonan 
were enough to make the 1972 campaign look like a Sun- 
day school picnic. Yet, at the time, few in the media ap- 
peared to give a damn. If anything the press and television 
threw its resources into an all-out effort to depict Goldwater 
as some sort of warmongering Fascist thug only interested 
in hurling the world into another war. 

A choice example of media defamation of Goldwater 
was provided by correspondent Daniel Schorr, who re- 
ported to CBS from Germany that a post-convention trip 
to that country, planned by Goldwater, signaled a link be- 



190 



VICTOR LASKY 



tween the “right-wing of the United States and that of 
Bavaria.” The smear was plain: Goldwater was somehow 
involved with neo-Nazis. 

“This is the damnedest lie I ever heard,” Goldwater said 
publicly. 

In a private conversation with me at the time, the 
senator said the allegation “made me sick to my stomach. 
It was a phony story by Schorr. My Jewish forebears were 
probably turning over in their graves.” 

A few days later Schorr broadcast this “clarifying state- 
ment”: 

“In speaking the other day of a move by Senator Gold- 
water to link up with these forces, I did not mean to sug- 
gest a conscious effort on his part of which there is no 
proof here , but rather a process of gravitation which is 
visible here.” 

Meanwhile the phony story was picked up around the 
country. The “clarifying statement” never clarified any- 
thing. Eventually Schorr returned to Washington, where a 
decade later he became the CBS expert on the evils of 
Watergate. 

Not to be outdone, The New York Times published 
its own smear. A dispatch out of Germany reported that 
Goldwater “has been corresponding with the Sudeten-Ger- 
man leader, Hans Christoph Seebohm. . . . Competent in- 
formants said today that Mr. Goldwater and Mr. Seebohm, 
who is Transport Minister in Chancellor Ludwig Erhard’s 
Cabinet, had been in ‘frequent and friendly’ correspon- 
dence for some time. . . . Mr. Seebohm was chastized by 
Chancellor Erhard last month after ... he asserted that 
the Munich Agreement of 1938 remained a legally binding 
compact.” 

Several days later the newspaper that prints only the 
“news that’s fit to print” was forced to report that See- 
bohm had denied that “he had been in friendly corre- 
spondence with Senator Goldwater.” A Seebohm spokesman 
made it perfectly clear that the cabinet member had “never 
seen, never spoken to, and never exchanged letters with 
Senator Goldwater.” The Times , caught with a phony story, 
offered this feble explanation: “. . . the report was based on 
information from competent sources known to be informed 
of Dr. Seebohm’s interest in the conservative movement 
in the United States.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 191 

Apparently it never occurred to the good, gray Times 
that the most competent source of information about Gold- 
water’s activities was Goldwater himself. 

Murray Kempton had predicted that the 1964 contest 
promised to be the “vilest” campaign in recent history. He 
could not have been more accurate. In fact the tactics used 
by Goldwater’s opponents to defeat him were loathsome. 
He was vilified as a Nazi almost without letup. His sanity 
was questioned. And Big Media, with few exceptions, co- 
operated in the Democratic effort to portray the Arizonan 
as a “trigger-happy” warmonger easily capable of igniting 
Armegeddon. 

Early in the campaign newspaper publisher John S. 
Knight had this to say: “Barry Goldwater is not my 
candidate, and I have done nothing to promote his Presi- 
dential aspirations. But I do think the Senator is getting 
shabby treatment from most of the news media.” After 
reading many of the columnists, Knight could find “only a 
few who are not savagely cutting down Goldwater day 
after day.” As for editorial cartoonists, they portrayed the 
senator “as belonging to the Neanderthal Age, or as a relic 
of the 19th Century.” The publisher concluded: “Some 
editors are disturbed because Goldwater is teeing off on 
the newspapers and other news media for failing to present 
the news of his candidacy fairly and objectively. I can’t 
say that I blame him. He hasn’t had a fair shake.” 

Ten years later Barry Goldwater was “back in style,” 
as James Naughton phrased it in The New York Times . 
The reason, Naughton wrote, is that “the blunt candor that 
devastated the Arizona Senator’s campaign for the White 
House in 1964 appears to many to have become something 
of a national treasure in 1974.” 



FOURTEEN 



In October 1973 Bill Moyers, former top aide to President 
Johnson, devoted an hour-long telecast to the evils of 
Watergate over the Public Broadcasting Service. And he 
reminisced about the four and a half years he spent in the 
White House: 

“I . . . can testify as to how tempting it is to put the 
President’s interests above all others. You begin to confuse 
the office with the man. And the man with the country. 

“Life inside those iron gates takes on an existential qual- 
ity. I think with the President’s mind. Therefore I am. To 
some extent this happens in every administration. But the 
men in and around the White House were measured by 
their zeal. Pity any grandmother who got in the way.” 

That was of course a reference to Charles Colson, who 
was supposed to have said that he would even walk over 
his grandmother’s grave in order to ensure Nixon’s re- 
election.* 

Needless to say, Moyers and his assorted guests, ranging 
from the liberal Henry Steele Commager to the conserva- 
tive George Will, all disapproved of excessive loyalty to a 
President — any President. Moyers, who had been LBJ’s 
press secretary, speechwriter, and confidant, made the cus- 
tomary attack on “efforts to use the FBI, CIA, IRS and 
Secret Service for political purposes.” 

It was quite a program, one which won for Moyers the 
highly coveted Emmy Award. 

But it should also have won for Moyers a prize for 
pompous and hypocritical moralizing. 

For we now know that this paragon of righteousness was 
on the receiving end of political information garnered by 

♦Colson himself denies having said this. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 193 

the FBI at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. 
Another recipient was White House Chief of Staff Walter 
Jenkins. And after the convention was over, Moyers sent 
a note to “Deke” DeLoach thanking him and his fellow 
FBI agents for their “fine” work. In return DeLoach wrote 
Moyers as follows: 

Thank you for your very thoughtful and generous 
note concerning our operation in Atlantic City. Please 
be assured that it was a pleasure and privilege to be 
able to be of assistance to the President, and all the 
boys that were with me felt honored in being selected 
for the assignment. 

I think everything worked out well, and I’m certain- 
ly glad that we were able to come through with vital 
tidbits from time to time which were of assistance to 
you and Walter. You know you have only to call on 
us when a similar situation arises. . . . 

Another piece of skulduggery in which Moyers was in- 
volved occurred two weeks before Election Day. As special 
assistant to the President he ordered the FBI to run a 
name check on numerous members of Goldwater’s cam- 
paign and Senate staffs in an effort to obtain derogatory in- 
formation about their possible sexual aberrations. 

What the President was looking for, Moyers told the FBI, 
was information about “fags” and other perverts on the 
Arizonan’s staff. Moyers’s request came shortly after Jen- 
kins himself had been arrested on a morals charge involving 
homosexuality. Embarrassed over what had happened to 
one of his oldest friends, the President insisted that the 
arrest had resulted from a Republican frame-up. And LBJ 
wanted to get even. Hence the Moyers request. 

The ugly story came out as a result of the February 
1975 appearance by Attorney General Edward H. Levi be- 
fore the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. 
The subject was the secret file J. Edgar Hoover had 
amassed over the years, consisting of derogatory informa- 
tion on presidents, members of Congress, federal officials, 
and others. 

After the hearing Deputy Attorney General Laurence H. 
Silberman disclosed that the misuse of the Bureau’s files 



194 



VICTOR LASKY 



and manpower had been made by several presidents. And 
among the examples he disclosed was Moyers’s extraor- 
dinary request. 

The FBI, which had no right to do so, did conduct in- 
quiries into the bedroom proclivities of the Goldwater 
staffers; but, as the Bureau informed Moyers, it could 
come up with no derogatory information. That did not 
stop the President from calling in selected correspondents 
to the White House and making insinuations about what 
he knew of leading Republicans and their families, hinting 
that he would use the material “if they keep after my 
people.” 

More recently when asked about the revelations concern- 
ing his role in all of this unappetizing skulduggery, Moy- 
ers’s first reaction was that he had “no recollection” of any 
of it. Yet within hours he was busy at the typewriter knock- 
ing out a column for Newsweek telling his side of the 
story. 

In that column Moyers — a former Baptist preacher — 
came up with a sanitized version of what had occurred at 
the White House following the Jenkins affair. Johnson had 
stormed into his office, Moyers claimed, to say that Hoover 
had informed him that “Goldwater’s people” may have 
“trapped” Walter Jenkins. Whereupon the President had 
ordered him to make certain that the FBI “find those 
bastards” — namely, the Republicans who he thought had 
set up the homosexual rendezvous for Jenkins. 

And what did Moyers do? 

Considering the criticism aimed at Nixon’s staff as be- 
ing too compliant and spineless — much of it leveled by 
moralizers like Moyers — what is more pertinent is what he 
did not do. Johnson’s top aide did not arise righteously 
(and properly) to counsel the President against using a 
law enforcement agency for personal political ends. 

Instead Moyers leaped to the phone, called “Deke” De- 
Loach, and gave him the President’s instructions. Just as 
his boss had ordered. 

So much for what was supposed to be the “unique” 
paranoia that afflicted the Nixon White House — and for 
the notion that pre-Nixon presidential aides were pure as 
Sunday school teachers in their ability to distinguish right 
from wrong, and to act on their better instincts. 

The DeLoach investigation proved as politically brainless 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 195 

as the break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist — and as illegal. 
Walter Jenkins had not been “set up” by “Goldwater’s 
people,” as Moyers’s boss had hoped to find. 

Nevertheless the use of the FBI to conduct such in- 
quiries about political opponents is just as shocking as 
anything that took place under Nixon. The difference, how- 
ever, is that those responsible for the Watergate abuses 
have all suffered at least public opprobrium. But Moyers 
and other of his former colleagues are doing better than 
ever. Moyers, in fact, is now moralizing over the CBS 
Television network. 

Like Colson with Nixon, Moyers labored without stint 
for LBJ. “That boy has a bleeding ulcer,” Johnson once 
proudly observed. “He works for me like a dog and is just 
as faithful. He never asks for anything — but for more 
work. He won’t go home with that bleeding ulcer until 
nine or ten o’clock. I don’t know what I’d do without him.” 
And Moyers said the right things about a President “whose 
full scope of thought, fervor and personality can never be 
known to one man alive.” 

When it came to “ass-kissing,” as one former LBJ aide 
told me, Moyers had few peers at the White House. “And 
there were a hell of a lot of ass-kissers around in those 
days. LBJ almost demanded it.” 

The most precious thing in Moyers’s life was his relation- 
ship with the President; anyone who threatened that re- 
lationship could find the young Texan to be nasty indeed. 
He was constantly looking over his shoulder to see if any- 
one was gaining on him. 

According to Eric Goldman, the in-house intellectual 
who eventually broke with LBJ, there were those in the 
White House who called Moyers “Elmer Gantry.” Gold- 
man thought the characterization “unfair, but it did sug- 
gest the air of completely satisfying rationalization with 
which he sometimes used stiletto tactics. As one staff man 
who found himself the victim of a Moyers thrust remarked, 
‘Whatever he does, he does with every assurance that he is 
carrying out the will of John the Baptist.’ ” 

During the 1964 campaign itself Moyers achieved a 
merited reputation as the “hit man” of the Pedernales gang. 
Prior to Watergate he frequently boasted of the “dirty 
tricks” he employed against the Goldwater candidacy. For 
the former preacher shared his boss’s determination not 



196 



VICTOR LASKY 



simply to beat Goldwater but to roll up the tremendous 
margin which would give LBJ his “mandate.” And one 
reason LBJ wanted a roaring landslide was to make JFK’s 
118,000-vote victory of 1960 look, as Eric Goldman put 
it, “like a pathetic peep.” For LBJ had had his bellyful 
of the so-called Kennedy legend. 

These days Moyers doesn’t do much boasting about the 
series of chilling TV commercials which portrayed Gold- 
water as an H-bomb fanatic. Remember the little girl pluck- 
ing flower petals and then the world blowing up? Well, 
those contributions to hysteria were devised by Moyers in 
collaboration with the advertising agency Doyle Dane 
Bernbach. 

The commercials, which were reviewed by Fortas and 
Clifford on behalf of the President, included another show- 
ing a little girl licking an ice cream cone. A woman’s voice 
told the child how people used to explode atomic weapons 
in the air, and how the radioactive fallout made children 
die. She then explained how a man who wanted to be 
President had voted against a treaty to prevent all but un- 
derground nuclear tests. “His name is Barry Goldwater, so 
if he’s elected, they might start testing all over again.” 
The last words were almost drowned out by a crescendo 
of Geiger-counter clicks. Then came the male announcer’s 
tagline: “Vote for President Johinson on November Third. 
The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” 

Even Johnson supporters were revolted. As a result of 
various protests the Democrats stopped showing the com- 
mercials. But years later, in talking with Nick Thimmesch, 
Moyers proudly claimed to have “hung the nuclear noose 
around Goldwater and finished him off.” 

By this time Moyers had left the White House to be- 
come publisher of Long Island’s Newsday . Then he began 
pontificating on public television and writing a column for 
Newsweek. It was through these channels that the former 
“hit man” of the Pedernales let it be known how appalled 
he was by the “dirty tricks” of the Watergate era. 

Another feature of the 1964 campaign was the “Five 
O’clock Club” meetings at the White House, attended by 
bright young Democratic lawyers and junior officials. The 
purpose was to “discuss deviltry” and other tricks (as 
Theodore White put it) to be inflicted on Goldwater during 
the campaign. Known to insiders as the Anti-Campaign, it 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 197 

was conceived and watched over by Lyndon Johnson him- 
self. As Evans and Novak later wrote, it was LBJ’s “unique 
contribution to presidential campaigning,” conducted with 
the absolute scerecy befitting a leader to whom “leaks” were 
anathema. As a result no word of the Anti-Campaign ever 
got out at the time. 

What it was, pure and simple, was a clandestine “black 
propaganda” operation. Working out of quarters almost 
directly above the Oval Office itself, the Anti-Campaign 
had no chairman, kept no minutes, issued no statements, 
revealed no strategy. Its security-conscious members were 
well versed in propaganda. Their objective was to keep 
hitting at Goldwater by any means, fair or foul, in order 
to keep his campaign off balance. 

They were successful. Often there were times when 
Goldwater did not know what hit him. And Johnson en- 
joyed every moment of it. As Evans and Novak reported: 
. . [White House Counsel Myer] Feldman was the bridge 
between Johnson and the propagandists and often rushed 
downstairs to the Oval Office to get the President’s reaction 
before approving a specific, plan.” 

No stone was left unturned to win for LBJ the greatest 
landslide in history. A certain winner when he began, early 
polls had given Johnson 80 percent of the vote. There 
was absolutely no way he could lose. Yet he unloosed a 
campaign of defamation against his opponent with few 
parallels in modern history. And the liberals loved it. 

For example, speaking before the Steelworkers, LBJ re- 
ferred to Goldwater as “a raving, ranting demagogue.” 

On another occasion he described himself as a man of 
peace and pictured his opponent as a man of war. At the 
same time LBJ promised, “We are not going to send 
American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home 
to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” 
In still another of his nondemagogic speeches, LBJ bel- 
lowed: “Just because we’re powerful, we can’t mash a 
button and tell an independent country to go to hell, be- 
cause they don’t want to go to hell, and we don’t get very 
far rattling our rockets or lobbing them into men’s rooms. 

. . . The only real issue in this campaign, the only one that 
you ought to get concerned about, is who can best keep 
the peace.” 

His non-raving runningmate was more explicit. Ac- 



198 



VICTOR LASKY 



cording to Hubert Humphrey, the election of Goldwater 
would make the United States “a garrison state in a night- 
mare world, isolated from everything except a nuclear 
reign of terror.” Goldwater was “dead wrong — tragically, 
dangerously wrong. The solutions he offers are no solutions 
at all. They are instead a sure path to widening conflict 
and ultimately to a nuclear holocaust.” 

There were other voices of reason and moderation (as 
they billed themselves), some of whom follow. 

Martin Luther King: “We see dangerous signs of Hit- 
lerism in the Goldwater campaign. If Goldwater wins, I 
am absolutely convinced we will see the dark night of 
social disruption and such intensification of discontent and 
despair by Negroes that there is certain to be an outbreak 
of violence.” 

Postmaster General John Gronouski: “We know what 
Goldwater is talking about. Extremism is hate and divisive- 
ness. It is spitting on the Ambassador to the United Na- 
tions. It is labeling the Chief Justice of the United States 
Supreme Court a traitor and a Communist. ... It is jus- 
tification for turning dogs loose on demonstrations, or 
bombing churches, or pouring acid in swimming pools.” 
Senator Fulbright: “Goldwater Republicanism is the 
closest thing in American politics to an equivalent of Rus- 
sian Stalinism.” 

George Meany: “(There is) a parallel between Senator 
Barry Goldwater and Adolf Hitler.” 

California Governor “Pat” Brown: “Goldwater’s ac- 
ceptance speech had the stench of fascism. . . . All we 
needed to hear was ‘Heil Hitler.’ ” 

Democratic National Chairman John Bailey: “(Gold- 
water’s platform) looks like a John Birch magazine . . . the 
platform writers have drawn up an exercise in fantasy, fear, 
and hate.” 

Columnist James Reston: “Goldwater must know that 
most of the extremist tyrants of history, from Caesar and 
Napoleon to Hitler and Stalin, acted in the name of liberty 
and justice.” 

Literary critic Maxwell Geismar: “(Goldwater) is a 
Doctor Strangelove incarnate; he is possessed, paranoidal, 
utterly evil, and close to suicidal. ... I believe he is close 
to being an out-and-out monster.” 

Rarely in the history of American politics has so much 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 199 

vulgar rhetoric been loosed against such a good man. No 
wonder Goldwater said after the election, with his typical 
good humor, that when he had read all the White House- 
inspired attacks against him he nearly decided to vote for 
Johnson. After all, who would want, to vote for a man who 
intended to widen the war in Southeast Asia, for example? 

But within a year a bitter joke was circulating. A girl 
was supposed to have said, “I was told that if I voted for 
Goldwater we would be at war in six months. I did — and 
we were.” 

As it turned out, the man who did widen the war was 
none other than Johnson. Even while he was blasting Gold- 
water as a warmonger, LBJ had made up his mind to es- 
calate the conflict by bombing North Vietnam — a fact he 
later confided to Charles W. Roberts of Newsweek. As he 
did not want to take the Congress into his confidence, he 
ordered his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, to 
draw up a resolution which would give him a free hand 
in Vietnam. The idea was to send it to Congress for ap- 
proval at the proper time. Bundy later confirmed there was 
such a draft, explaining, “We had always anticipated . . . 
the possibility that things might take a more drastic turn 
at any time.” 

The right moment came after the U.S. destroyer Maddox 
was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the 
Gulf of Tonkin. A second announcement followed quickly: 
North Vietnamese gunboats had struck again. And on the 
night of August 4, 1964, Johnson went on television to 
explain that he had ordered a retaliatory strike against the 
torpedo boats and their bases in North Vietnam. 

Johnson then went to the Congress for a special resolu- 
tion authorizing him to “take all necessary measures to re- 
pel any armed attack against the forces of the United States 
and to prevent further aggression.” This meant that he 
could use the armed forces just about as he wished in Viet- 
nam. The Congress gave him this blank check by an over- 
whelming vote. 

But had the President deliberately misled the Congress 
and the American people on the Tonkin episode? Senator 
Fulbright, who had been LBJ’s floor leader on the resolu- 
tion, thought so after hearing testimony some years later. “I 
thought Johnson’s story was on the level,” said Fulbright. 
“But the story of the attack didn’t hold up. It was an 



200 



VICTOR LASKY 



arranged incident to get a resolution creating unity behind 
any action he wanted to take.” 

In other words LBJ had lied to the American people. 

But by rushing the Tonkin Resolution through the Con- 
gress, Johnson had also managed to box in Goldwater on 
Vietnam. Republicans on the attack found it difficult to ac- 
cuse the President of being “soft on Communism.” In fact, 
by raiding North Vietnam, LBJ looked like a tough hombre 
indeed. 

Everything was coming up roses, Texas-style, for LBJ 
as the campaign entered its final weeks. Yet still the Dem- 
ocratic candidate was getting awfully annoyed at the hecklers 
who were crossing his campaign path. His top aide Marvin 
Watson, who was overseeing the advance work, reported 
that LBJ was very angry at the demonstrators. 

“The President does not want them,” Watson notified 
advance man Jerry Bruno. “See if you can eliminate them.” 

At the very next stop there was a man with an enormous 
“Goldwater for President” sign that LBJ could not miss. 
Watson was fit to be tied. 

“I thought I told you we don’t want any more signs and 
hecklers,” Watson told Bruno. “Now get that down.” 

“It’s impossible,” replied Bruno. “We sent some people 
over there, but you can’t tear down signs. It’ll just look 
really bad.” 

Bruno thuoght that was the end of it. But as he was 
getting ready to leave, Watson called with a great idea. 

“What about itching powder?” he asked. 

“Itching powder?” 

“Sure,” said Watson. “Our advance men should carry a 
can with them. If they saw a heckler shouting or carrying 
a Goldwater sign, the advance men could throw some 
powder on the heckler, who’d have to stop what he was 
doing.” 

Bruno wrote that he rejected the idea, although he 
heard that in Houston “somebody did use it on some un- 
friendly people.” 

Obviously the “fear of dissent,” to use a favorite phrase 
of The New York Times, was not confined to the Nixon 
era. 

Nor were the practical jokes which later landed Donald 
Segretti and Dwight Chapin in thfe slammer. The Demo- 
cratic trickster in 1964 was a Californian named Dick 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 201 

Tuck, who appeared to be spending his life devising 
schemes to make life miserable for Republicans. And the 
media loved every minute of it. 

There \vas, for example, the Tuck-inspired caper ap- 
proved by the Democratic National Committee itself, 
which involved infiltrating a good-looking brunette aboard 
the Goldwater campaign train. Her cover was that of a 
free-lance magazine writer. Her assignment was to slip 
copies of an anti-Goldwater flyer called The Whistlestop 
under the compartment doors of traveling correspondents. 

The girl was twenty-three-year-old Moira O’Connor of 
Chicago. Shortly after the train left Washington bound for 
Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, she got to work. Copies of 
Whistlestop were circulated surreptitiously. It promised to 
keep everyone informed “and, with considerable assistance 
from the Senator himself, amused.” After listing four Re- 
publican newspapers in Ohio that had endorsed LBJ, the 
newsletter casually reassured the correspondents that flu- 
oride (supposedly the bete noire of rightists) had not been 
added to the train’s water supply. 

Vic Gold, an assistant Goldwater press secretary, got up 
before dawn in search of the culprit. Instead he found 
copies of the second edition already slipped under nearly 
every compartment door. 

“What followed,” a dispatch by Charles Mohr to The 
New York Times reported the next day, “had the elements 
of an episode of an Ian Fleming or Eric Ambler thriller on 
the Orient Express rushing through the Balkan night. 

“There were soft footfalls in the darkened corridors as 
the gently rocking Goldwater Express went rushing through 
the West Virginia night. There was a swift and ruthless 
search of baggage. And then came the pre-dawn discovery 
and confrontation of Miss O’Connor by . . . Vic Gold. 

“She was caught silently slipping under compartment 
doors a new edition of Whistlestop contrasting the crowds 
Richard M. Nixon drew in Ohio in 1960 with what was 
expected for Mr. Goldwater today. 

“Mr. Gold’s words to the pretty Democratic spy were: 
‘I think you have made your last delivery, my dear.’ ” 

Off she went at Parkersburg, West Virginia — “the spy 
who was thrown out into the cold,” as Mohr reported — 
but not before admitting she had been assigned to the “mis- 
sion” by Dick Tuck, who was employed as a “researcher” 



202 



VICTOR LASKY 



by the Democratic National Committee. Tuck happily 
showed up to claim authorship of the caper. And the press 
couldn’t have had a better time reporting every humorous 
detail.* 

For most of his career as a professional “prankster” Tuck 
concentrated his peculiar talents in efforts to annoy, if not 
harass, Nixon. And, as he tells it, he was quite successful 
in his chosen profession. 

For a long time, Tuck reaped enormous media coverage 
with the story of how, when Nixon was in the middle of a 
whistlestop speech on his 1962 gubernatorial campaign 
train, it suddenly began pulling out of the station. A switch- 
man had flashed a signal and the train rolled away. 

The “switchman,” wearing a railman’s cap, was none 
other than Tuck or so the story went. 

But what most of those who have written about the 
episode failed to note was the fact that the prank could 
easily have resulted in serious injuries to people standing 
close to the train. Imagine if Segretti had pulled that kind 
of stunt. He probably would have been imprisoned for 
life. 

But anything went (and still does) when it comes to dis- 
comfiting Nixon. As David Halberstam has stated, Tuck’s 
forte over the years was “the haunting of Richard Nixon.” 
And the press loved it. It was only when Segretti began 
practicing pranks on the Democrats that the media dis- 
covered that “sabotage” was involved. The truth is that 
Segretti was a bumbling amateur compared to Tuck. 

At another Nixon rally in 1962, Tuck claimed credit for 
switching identification signs on the motorcade buses. One, 
labeled “Nixon,” was ready to rush the candidate to a 
live television appearance. The other, labeled “VIP’s,” was 
standing by to take celebrities to the airport. The result, 
according to Tuck, was that Nixon found himself at the air- 
port while his guests arrived at the television studio. 

♦The same press failed to see anything funny about the infiltration 
of another comely creature aboard McGovern’s press plane in 1972. 
Her assignment was to keep the Republicans informed on what the 
Democratic candidate was saying out in the boondocks, but she did 
not interfere or play any “dirty tricks” on the Democrats. Yet dis- 
closure of her activities led to cries of horror on the part of the 
same people who were so amused by Tuck’s “spy” of eight years 
before. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 203 

In a loving article in The Village Voice, Paul Hoffman 
chronicled several of Tuck’s exploits. He noted, “On one 
of Nixon’s California campaign swings, Tuck rode in the 
press bus, a tape recorder marked ‘KRGT’ slung over his 
shoulder — and blithely went his way obtaining advance 
texts of Nixon’s speeches for Governor Brown — until 
someone on Nixon’s staff checked and discovered there 
was no such station.” 

Significantly, few of those opposed to “dirty politics” 
looked askance at Tuck’s shenanigans. In fact, Bruce 
Felknor, then executive director of the Fair Campaign 
Practices Committee, termed the shenanigans “magnificent 
nonsense.” One wonders how Felknor later would have 
characterized Segretti’s activities. 

But even more significant, not once did Nixon or his 
aides ever complain publicly about Tuck. Annoyed as 
they were, they took the attitude that all’s fair in love 
and politics. 

Tuck next showed up at the 1964 Republican Conven- 
tion in San Francisco. According to Newsweek, he wan- 
dered around creating havoc by spreading phony stories 
about rival candidates and setting one against another — 
which, the magazine noted, was “a tactic not too far re- 
moved from some of Segretti’s machinations.” 

Once Goldwater became his party’s nominee, he replaced 
Nixon as Tuck’s chief victim. And one of Tuck’s greatest 
fans was the man in the White House — Lyndon Johnson, 
who chortled eevry time he heard of the prankster’s capers. 

LBJ also chortled at what appeared to be an effort 
mounted by the Republican National Committee to in- 
filtrate Democratic headquarters with a paid agent. The 
effort backfired, much to the chagrin of GOP officials. 

The prospective spy was Louis Flax, a teletype operator 
for Reuters, in its Washington bureau. To make a few 
extra dollars. Flax was moonlighting at Democratic head- 
quarters. His job was to teletype each day’s secret schedules 
and other confidential campaign plans to the Democrats’ 
network around the country. 

Late one night Flax received a mysterious call. The 
caller made a proposition. “All you would have to do,” he 
whispered, “is get some friends of mine certain informa- 
tion and keep them up to date on any prospective cam- 
paign plans that you might come in contact with.” 



204 



VICTOR LASKY 



“I’m not interested in anything like that,” said Flax. 

The caller then delicately referred to “certain things” in 
Flax’s background unknown to his Democratic employers. 
Quite obviously he was referring to a sixteen-month term 
Flax had spent in the Maryland House of Correction on a 
bad check charge. 

“Wouldn’t you consider this something in the order of 
blackmail?” the teletypist asked. 

“Well,” huffed the voice, “let’s not use nasty words.” 

Flax was told to call a certain telephone number, ask 
for the chief of security, and identify himself as “Mr. 
Lewis.” The telephone number was that of the Republican 
National Committee and an appointment was made for 
“Mr. Lewis” to come in. 

Flax showed up at the appointed time and met with John 
Grenier, a top GOP official. A deal was worked out where- 
by Flax would obtain and deliver materials from Dem- 
ocratic headquarters. 

After meeting with Grenier, Flax notified his superiors 
as to what had occurred. His boss was none other than 
Wayne Phillips, himself no stranger to political skuldug- 
gery. Phillips was absolutely delighted with the story and 
suggested that Flax play along with the Republicans. 

Two days later double agent Flax-Lewis delivered his 
first shipment — a sheaf of Western Union carbons of secret 
messages screened by Phillips. Flax-Lewis was paid $1,000 
in bills. The teletypist continued his double life for two 
weeks. 

Flax’s story was then given to the press. It gave Dem- 
ocratic Chairman Bailey an opportunity to crow over Re- 
publican skulduggery in the midst of a Goldwater cam- 
paign stressing morality in government. 

When Grenier was asked by newsmen about the elab- 
orate plot, he denied he knew anyone named Flax. 
Goldwater, however, thought the episode was the funniest 
thing he had heard all day. Besides, he confided, he would 
never have resorted to bribery since he was sure he’d be 
able to find a Democratic spy who’d work for nothing. 

There was a period during the campaign, however, when 
things appeared not to be going too well for LBJ’s all-out 
effort to amass the greatest vote in history. The Very Rev- 
erend Francis B. Sayre, Jr. — Woodrow Wilson’s grandson 
and the prestigious dean of the Episcopal Washington 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 205 

Cathedral — unloosed a blast at the Democratic candidate. 
In fact LBJ and the White House were rocked when Sayre 
characterized Johnson as “a man whose public house is 
splendid in its every appearance, but whose private lack of 
ethic must inevitably introduce termites at the very foun- 
dation.” 

Not that the Very Reverend was endorsing Goldwater. 
Far from it. He characterized the Republican nominee as 
“a man of dangerous ignorance.” But Sayre, who had suf- 
fered through ninety minutes of a bitter name-calling at- 
tack directed at him when LBJ was Vice President and both 
were serving on the President’s Committee on Equal Em- 
ployment Opportunity, concentrated his fire on LBJ. The 
Washington Star commented that Sayre’s “harsh pro- 
nouncement, we suspect, sums up the real mood of a 
great part of the electorate.” 

When Sayre unloosed this blast at his candidacy, LBJ 
did an uncharacteristic thing. On advice of his associates 
he bit his tongue and maintained silence. And though there 
was no official statement, the White House did let it be 
known that Sayre was an ardent Kennedyite, which, of 
course, explained everything. 

But LBJ suffered an even more telling blow with the 
sleazy episode involving Walter Jenkins. One of Johnson’s 
closest and most trusted aides, Jenkins had devoted his life 
to LBJ and had been by his side from the moment he 
entered the White House. 

Ironically it was Jenkins who had sent out a memoran- 
dum to all heads of federal departments asking them to be 
super-careful about not getting caught with any security 
problems. 

As LBJ’s chief of staff, Jenkins wrote: “We have been 
somewhat concerned about our procedures in requesting 
security name checks ... for appointees to the federal ser- 
vice. It would be unfortunate if undesirable individuals 
were put on the Federal payroll simply because sufficient 
precautions were not taken prior to their appointment.” 

Jenkins outlined new procedures designed to “prevent 
considerable embarrassment both to the Government and 
to the potential employee himself.” It was obvious that, 
with the presidential campaign in full swing, the last thing 
the administration needed was “embarrassing” appoint- 
ments. 



206 



VICTOR LASKY 



Of course the man who sent out this warning was himself 
soon to become LBJ’s greatest embarrassment. Just a month 
before Election Day, Jenkins was arrested in a pay toilet 
of the men’s room of the YMCA, two blocks from the 
White House. It was not the first time Jenkins had been 
caught. The police had apprehended him in the same wash- 
room in January 1959 in a similar homosexual episode. 
But at that time Jenkins chose to forfeit collateral and 
thus avoid a trial. 

Somehow he managed to avoid publicity in the 1959 
episode. The big question was whether LBJ had known of 
his close friend’s aberration. Most certainly J. Edgar 
Hoover knew. Under normal circumstances the director 
would most certainly have informed LBJ. 

Jenkins also tried to keep the news of his newest run-in 
with the law quiet. But within a week rumors had reached 
the three Washington dailies. Only one, the Star , sent a re- 
porter out to check the arrest book at police headquarters. 
There he found that a “Jenkins, Walter Wilson (of) 3704 
Huntington St., N.W.” had been arrested on October 7, 
1964, and charged with “disorderly conduct (pervert).” 

The reporter then checked with Liz Carpenter, Mrs. 
Johnson’s press secretary, who immediately scoffed at the 
story. She said she would get back to the reporter. When 
she did, she said that Jenkins would be in touch with him. 
But Jenkins never called. Instead he phoned Abe Fortas 
to say he was in serious trouble. 

After listening to the story, Fortas tried to contact the 
President, who was campaigning in New York. When he 
was unable to do so, the lawyer acted on his own. He ad- 
vised Jenkins to check into a hospital in order to be out of 
reach of reporters. At the same time, accompanied by 
Clark Clifford, Fortas went to the offices of the Star to 
plead for compassion. He said the unfortunate episode was 
an isolated incident brought on by hard work and the 
few drinks he had had at a cocktail party that evening. 
“Think of Jenkins’s wife and six children,” he pleaded. 
Fortas appeared startled when the editors brought up the 
1959 episode. Nevertheless they agreed to withhold the 
story on learning that Jenkins would soon be asked to re- 
sign his post. 

Fortas and Clifford then raced over to the offices of the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 207 

Post and Daily News. After listening to the lawyers, the 
editors also agreed not to publish the story. As a student of 
Fortas’s career has observed, “The mere fact of his 
presence at the [newspapers’] offices, along with another 
of the President’s close advisers, amounted to pressure 
which any editor would have found difficult to resist.” 

But the rumors could not be contained. Without nam- 
ing Jenkins, GOP National Chairman Dean Burch issued 
a one-sentence statement which caused a nationwide sen- 
sation: “The White House is desperately trying to suppress 
a major news story affecting the national security.” 

Later that day United Press International broke the 
story over its wires. 

Meanwhile, according to Republican Senator Carl Cur- 
tis, “the book at the police station containing the Jenkins’ 
arrest record disappeared. But . . . some of the men with 
whom I was working took a photograph of that particular 
police blotter before the book disappeared.” 

By this time Fortas had gotten through to LBJ. The 
news hit the President like a bombshell. As the guest of 
honor at the A1 Smith dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria LBJ 
was obviously not himself. He seemed dazed, according to 
observers, and cut his speech in half, reading the remainder 
in a distracted monotone. 

Fortas had advised the President to announce that he had 
asked for and received Jenkins’s resignation. The an- 
nouncement was made by Press Secretary George Reedy 
at an impromptu press conference at the Waldorf. 

Fortas had also suggested that LBJ announce he had 
asked Edgar Hoover to make “an immediate and compre- 
hensive inquiry on the case and report promptly to me and 
the American people.” This too was done. But the credibil- 
ity of the “inquiry” was immediately placed in jeopardy 
when it was disclosed that the director had sent a bouquet 
of flowers to Jenkins at the hospital with a warm personal 
note, signed “J. Edgar Hoover and Associates.” 

Nevertheless Jenkins’s vulnerability to blackmail did 
raise the question in some people’s minds as to whether 
he might ever have compromised national security. After 
all, Jenkins had been privy to every important secret in the 
White House. There was very- little in the way of classified 
intelligence to which he did not have access. The Re- 



208 



VICTOR LASKY 



publicans, whose campaign had appeared to be flounder- 
ing, seemed to have gotten a new lease on life. But 
not for long. 

The results of a crash public opinion poll came in the 
next day. Oliver Quayle, who had taken the poll on LBJ’s 
instructions, reported that the case would have little bear- 
ing on the results of the election. Only then did LBJ issue 
a statement of sympathy for Jenkins, who “has worked 
with me faithfully for twenty-five years” with “dedication, 
devotion and tireless labor.” 

Meanwhile LBJ took such a personal interest in the FBI’s 
investigation ordered by him that he actually told the 
Bureau what its final report should contain. In substance the 
President said the report should state that Jenkins was over- 
ly tired, that he was a good family man and a hard worker, 
and that he was not “biologically” a homosexual. 

Within the week Hoover sent the results of the Bureau’s 
“extensive investigation” over to Acting Attorney General 
Nicholas Katzenbach. The FBI investigation, said the di- 
rector, “disclosed no information that Mr. Jenkins has 
compromised the security or interests of the United States 
in any manner.” The report, which was issued two weeks 
before the election, read like a commendation. It claimed 
that “a favorable appraisal of Mr. Jenkins* loyalty and 
dedication to the United States was given the FBI by more 
than three hundred of his associates, both business and 
social. . . 

By this time the rush of events abroad completely over- 
shadowed the Jenkins story. For one thing Khrushchev had 
been deposed in Moscow. Then the Chinese Communists 
exploded their first nuclear device. At the same time the 
British elected a Labor government. At home, there was a 
cliff-hanging World Series between the Yankees and the 
Cardinals. 

But LBJ, now more than ever assured of victory, found 
it difficult to leave well enough alone. Not only was he harp- 
ing on his conviction that the Republicans had “framed” 
Jenkins, but — while campaigning in San Diego — he re- 
marked that Eisenhower had suffered from “the same type 
of problem” with one of his White House aides. It was a 
foolish thing to say. If anything, Ike had not hired the 
young man in the first place. Still, keeping the issue alive 
was stupid because, by seeking to link Eisenhower with 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 209 

sexual deviates, LBJ was risking political recriminations. 

But by then nothing, not even crude mistakes, could 
prevent an LBJ avalanche. The results were a foregone 
conclusion. 

Meanwhile Clark Clifford, generally known as one of the 
town’s leading “fixers,” with clout in the right places, was 
doing better than ever. Clifford was an expert in back- 
channel dealing, the sort of thing which was to arouse such 
horrified concern with the surfacing of what came to be 
known as the ITT “scandal” during the Nixon years. 

Clifford’s law firm had been hired in the early sixties by 
the duPonts of Delaware, when they were ordered to get 
rid of, their General Motors stock because of antitrust im- 
plications. This meant that, unless Congress passed ex- 
traordinary legislation of forgiveness, the family faced a 
tax liability of more than $1 billion. According to Bill 
Greider in the Washington Post, Clifford was hired “to 
guide their argument through the inner branches of the 
executive branch. . . . Clifford, who was advising President 
Kennedy on foreign intelligence matters then, arranged 
some appointments for the folks from Wilmington — pri- 
vate audiences with the Treasury secretary, the Attorney 
General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Assistant Attor- 
ney General for Anti-Trust, and the General Counsel of the 
Treasury.” 

The arguments were apparently persuasive because the 
Justice Department, which had previously opposed special 
tax consideration for antitrust violators, let it be known 
that in this case it would make an exception. Before long, 
with administration approval, Congress passed a law slash- 
ing the potential tax liability of the duPonts by approxi- 
mately $650 million. 

Two years later Clifford’s closeness to Johnson appar- 
ently did him little harm when the duPont tax matter again 
came up. The lawyer helped negotiate a favorable inter- 
pretation of the 1962 settlement — one that saved the du- 
Ponts (who probably considered it petty cash) at least $56 
million in taxes. 

Democratic party ties to Big Business were strengthened 
under Johnson. The new President took the attitude that 
people who benefited financially from his administration 
ought to be able to demonstrate their gratitude. Thus, for 
the 1964 convention at Atlantic City, the Democratic Na- 



210 



VICTOR LASKY 



tional Committee prepared a ninety-six-page “program,” 
selling space in it at $15,000 a page. Lo and behold, the 
pages went like “hot cakes.” Everyone — but particularly 
major defense contractors as well as trucking firms — 
wanted to advertise their wares in the “program.” And 
why not? It was a good deal. For the Democrats had con- 
veniently obtained an IRS ruling that, far from being con- 
sidered illegal corporate gifts, the space orders were to be 
entered on the books as advertising costs which, of course, 
meant they were tax deductible as legitimate business ex- 
penses. 

At the same time LBJ invented the President’s Club, a 
device to provide special consideration to those captains of 
industry who saw the light and contributed accordingly. 
Among the contributors were August A. Busch and two 
of his employees at his brewing corporation. In May 1966 
they contributed a total of $10,000 to LBJ’s President’s 
Club. A month later, in what was then regarded as a sur- 
prise decision, the Justice Department announced it was 
dropping an antitrust suit against the St. Louis company. 
Shortly after the announcement Vice President Humphrey 
and Donald Turner, head of Justice’s antitrust division, flew 
out to St. Louis in Busch’s private plane to attend the 
All-Star baseball game in Busch Stadium. The peculiar 
confluence of events was noticed by two Republican con- 
gressmen, Gerald R. Ford and Charles Goodell, who all 
but called the deal corrupt. But they didn’t go that far. 
What Ford said was this: “The linking of political con- 
tributions and dismissal of anti-trust suits was too much of 
a coincidence to be ignored.” 

It was ignored. Aside from the Republican sniping, there 
was little reaction elsewhere. There was no impassioned 
outcry from the media, for example. That was only to 
come six years later when the Nixon administration got 
involved in the ITT case. 



FIFTEEN 



Among the fruits of the electronic surveillance of Dr. Mar- 
tin Luther King launched under Attorney General Robert 
F. Kennedy was a rich lode of tapes on the civil rights 
leader’s private activities in bedrooms across the land. 

What those activities had to do with national security — 
the justification for Kennedy’s authorization of the King 
wiretaps — is difficult to fathom. As the Justice Department 
itself has lately admitted, the purpose of the surveillance 
was “investigating the love life of a group leader for dis- 
semination to the press.” The “group leader” was later 
identified as Dr. King. 

The electronic surveillance produced a massive number 
of recordings. Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law 
School, writing in The New Republic , estimated that 5,000 
separate conversations went on tape, violating “the privacy 
of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent King callers 
and visitors.” 

And what is amazing, in retrospect, is that not one of 
the many persons whose constitutional rights were definite- 
ly violated ever sued. Which is interesting in view of the 
suits later filed by complainants who alleged violation of 
their rights by the Nixon administration. 

One of the secret recordings was of a party held by King 
and officials of the Southern Christian Leadership Con- 
ference, which he headed, at the Willard Hotel in the sum- 
mer of 1963. This was at the time King was in Washington 
to deliver his famous “I have a dream” speech before a 
quarter of a million people in front of the Lincoln Me- 
morial. 

It was a mass rally for civil rights which neither Presi- 
dent Kennedy nor his brother, the Attorney General, par- 
ticularly wanted to take place. But they had no choice. Dr. 
King had informed the President that the demonstration 



212 



VICTOR LASKY 



would go on as planned with or without the administra- 
tion’s approval. 

A copy of the recording of the Willard festivities was 
later sent secretly to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta, by William 
C. Sullivan, then in charge of the FBI’s counter-intelligence 
operations, on orders from Hoover. 

Mrs. King has confirmed that she received the tape in 
January 1965. “I received a tape that was rather curious, 
unlabeled,” she said recently. “As a matter of fact, Martin 
and I listened to the tape and we found much of it unin- 
telligible. We concluded there was nothing in the tape to 
discredit him.” They also concluded, she said, that the tape 
had been made covertly by the FBI. 

But they couldn’t prove it at the time. The fact remains 
that mailing of the tape not only was a violation of Bureau 
regulations but constituted a potential crime, in that it 
violated an FCC regulation prohibiting any government 
agency from disclosing contents of a taped or bugged 
conversation to a third party. 

Wherever Dr. King went, he was the object of electronic 
surveillance. Room bugs were installed in hotels from 
coast to coast as the Black leader moved around the coun- 
try. According to Arthur Murtagh, a retired agent attached 
to the FBI’s Atlanta office, the moves against Dr. King were 
second in size “only to the way they went after Jimmy 
Hoffa.” 

Yet despite this massive surveillance there never was a 
criminal prosecution of Dr. King for violation of any 
federal or state law. 

But a “monograph” on Dr. King’s personal life was cir- 
culated among government officials during the Kennedy ad- 
ministration, according to two former FBI officials. The 
New York Times reported that when President Kennedy 
became aware of what was going on, he ordered Hoover 
to call back every copy. But the President did not order 
an end to the surveillance itself. 

Nor did Johnson when he assumed the presidency. In 
fact LBJ eagerly received the tapes and transcripts of 
King’s extracurricular activities. The new President not 
only read the accounts, which an aide described as being 
“like an erotic book,” but also listened to the tapes, which 
included the noise of bedsprings. Later on when an aide de- 
fended Dr. King’s antiwar activities, LBJ angrily retorted, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 213 

“Goddammit, if only you could hear what that hypocritical 
preacher does sexually.” (This from the same President 
who sometimes denounced electronic surveillance as “the 
worst thing in our society.”) 

According to a staff report of the Senate Intelligence 
Committee released in 1976, it was none other than Bill 
Moyers, then an assistant to President Johnson, who “ex- 
pressly approved” the circulation within the Executive 
Branch of a secret FBI report on King. One section of the 
monograph dealt with King’s personal life as ascertained 
from bugs placed in various hotel suites. The purpose of 
this and other such FBI reports was to destroy and discredit 
the civil rights leader, according to the Senate study. 

Under questioning, Moyers testified that he was general- 
ly aware that the FBI reports contained material of a per- 
sonal nature. 

Had he ever asked why the FBI was transmitting this 
kind of information to the White House? 

Moyers said he didn’t remember. “I just assumed it was 
related to a fallout of the investigations concerning the 
Communist allegations, which is what the President was 
concerned about.” 

“Did you ever question the propriety of the FBI’s dis- 
seminating that type of information?” Moyers was asked. 

“I never questioned it, no,” Moyers replied. “I thought 
it was spurious and irrelevant . . 

“And you found nothing improper about the FBI’s 
sending that information along also?” 

“Unnecessary?” Moyers replied. “Improper at that 
time? No.” 

“Do you recall anyone in the White House ever ques- 
tioning the impropriety of the FBI’s disseminating this type 
of material?” 

“I think . . . there were comments that tended to 
ridicule the FBI’s doing this, but no.” 

Moyers said he had not suspected the FBI was cover- 
ing Dr. King’s activities with microphones, although he 
conceded, “I subsequently realized I should have assumed 
that. . . . The nature of the general references that were 
being made I realized later could only have come from 
that kind of knowledge unless there was an informer in 
Martin Luther King’s presence a good bit of the time.” 

In his Newsweek column of March 10, 1975, Moyers 



214 



VICTOR LASKY 



claimed that Johnson’s interest in Dr. King began when 
Attorney General Kennedy told him of the possibility that 
the civil rights leader might be getting Communist funds. 
Johnson became quite agitated. “There’s not a God-dam 
thing you and I can do to help this civil rights thing, 
Moyers quoted LBJ as telling Kennedy, “if we put our 
arms around King and Jim Eastland [chairman of the 
Senate Internal Security Subcommittee] suddenly calls a 
press conference to announce that the good doctor-preach- 
er is a Communist front. And don’t think Hoover wouldn t 
tell him.” 

According to Moyers, the FBI investigations never es- 
tablished that King was a “Communist front.” Instead the 
investigations turned up “some totally irrelevant informa- 
tion,” which Hoover sent over to the White House. Though 
Moyers did not say it, this apparently was information con- 
cerning King’s private conduct. 

According to Moyers, too, there were times when LBJ 
“personally feared J. Edgar Hoover.” But the President 
“learned to use Hoover even as Hoover was using him; 
that he was given to fits of uncontrollable suspicion, once 
lashing two of his aides for being as ‘naive as newborn 
calves’ about the Kennedys, Communists and The New 
York Times ; that he sometimes found gossip about other 
men’s weaknesses a delicious hiatus from work. And that 
from these grew some of our worst excesses. . . .” 

But for more than a decade Moyers did nothing about 
revealing those excesses, which he only recently indicated 
led to “constitutional violations.” Like Nixon’s aides after 
him, he covered up the transgressions in which he prom- 
inently figured. But, unlike Nixon’s aides, he has done well 
and is highly thought of in media circles today. 

What is astonishing about all this is that media execu- 
tives had known for years that Dr. King was the object of 
illegal surveillance. They knew it when Dr. King was alive. 
And they knew it because FBI officials had come to them 
peddling gossip about King’s sex life which could only 
have arisen from surreptitious recordings. 

A case in point: In the spring of 1964, an FBI agent 
called on Eugene Patterson, then editor of the Atlanta Con- 
stitution. “You people have been giving support to Martin 
Luther King,” the agent told Patterson. “Don’t you owe it 
to your readers to tell them what kind of man he is? Our 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 215 

information is that while he postures as a great moral 
leader, he is running around with women. Don’t you think 
your readers ought to know this?” 

Patterson recalls telling the agent that “we didn’t run a 
key-hole-peeking newspaper” and that “that kind of thing 
had nothing to do with the civil rights movement.” 
Nevertheless the agent suggested that the Constitution 
send a reporter and a photographer to a Florida airport 
that weekend in order to record a meeting between Dr. 
King and a woman. The agent said the information had 
come from an “informant,” obviously meaning a bug. Pat- 
terson refused. As it turned out, the agent later told 
Patterson, the rendezvous was called off, “so it’s a good 
thing you didn’t send anybody down there.” 

Patterson discussed the episode with his publisher, Ralph 
McGill. According to Patterson, McGill who was outraged, 
spoke of getting in touch with Attorney General Kennedy 
to advise him of what the FBI was up to. But Patterson 
never learned whether McGill did so. Patterson says that 
he himself “personally told this story to John Doar, one of 
Kennedy’s assistants, and was appalled when I got no reac- 
tion from him, not even an indication he had heard what 
I said (and we were speaking face to face). I realized then 
that Hoover either was beyond Kennedy’s control, or else 
Kennedy knew what Hoover was doing. McGill and I 
traded disappointed exclamations over this.” 

Of course Kennedy knew what Hoover was doing. And 
John Doar, who said nothing about the violations of Dr. 
King’s civil liberties, was to say a great deal ten years 
later about other such violations as chief counsel of the 
Nixon impeachment inquiry. Yet, on balance, nothing that 
was done under Nixon could compare in grossness and in- 
humanity to what was done to Dr. King under Kennedy 
and Johnson. And in evaluating the abuses of power under 
Nixon in the impeachment proceedings, not once did Doar 
ever seek to place the evidence in the perspective of what 
he knew at first hand were far greater evils committed by 
the two presidents whom he so loyally served. 

Patterson and McGill were not the only newsmen ap- 
proached with information about King’s alleged philander- 
ing. On November 25, 1964, according to the Senate In- 
telligence Committee, the Washington bureau chief of a 
“national news publication” told Nicholas B. Katzenbach, 



216 



VICTOR LASKY 



then Attorney General, that one of his reporters had been 
approached by the FBI and offered the opportunity to listen 
to “interesting” tape recordings involving the civil rights 
leader. So “shocked” was Katzenbach that he and Burke 
Marshall, the retiring head of the Civil Rights Division, 
flew to the LBJ Ranch. 

“On that occasion,” Katzenbach testified, “he and I in- 
formed the President of our conversation with the news 
editor and expressed in very strong terms our view that this 
was shocking conduct and politically extremely dangerous 
to the Presidency. I told the President that it should be 
stopped immediately and that he should personally contact 
Mr. Hoover. I received the impression that President John- 
son took the matter very seriously and that he would do as 
I recommended.” 

The only record of this episode in the FBI files is a 
memorandum by DeLoach dated December 1, 1964, stating 
in part: 

Bill Moyers, while I was at the White House today, 
advised that word had gotten to the President this after- 
noon that (the newsman) was telling all over town 
. . . that the FBI had told him that Martin Luther 
King was (excised). (The newsman), according to 
Moyers, had stated to several people that, “If the FBI 
will do this to Martin Luther King, they will un- 
doubtedly do it to anyone for personal reasons.” 
Moyers stated the President wanted to get this word 
to us so we would know not to trust (the newsman). 
Moyers also stated that the President felt that (the 
newsman) lacked integrity and was certainly no lover 
of the Johnson Administration or the FBI. I told 
Moyers this was certainly obvious. 

Though the name of “the newsman” was excised from 
the official record, he. soon identified himself. It was none 
other than Ben Bradlee, who confirmed to a questioner 
that when he was bureau chief of Newsweek in 1964 he 
had informed Katzenbach of the offer made to one of his 
reporters. While he obviously was outraged at the time, 
what is significant is that Bradlee never published a word 
about the sleazy episode. 

Also significant was the role of Moyers, who was later 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 217 

to win prizes for expounding on the evils of Watergate. 
Always the sycophant, the former Baptist preacher had 
passed on LBJ’s warning to beware of the untrustworthy 
Bradlee who, as everyone in the Johnson administration 
knew, was an “enemy” because of his close Kennedy as- 
sociations. But when asked in executive session, Moyers 
said he had no memory of any aspect of the episode. He 
recalled nothing about the incident involving Bradlee or 
about the discussion Katzenbach and Marshall had with 
the President. Nor did he recall ever hearing anything 
about the FBI offering to play the King recordings to re- 
porters, or even ever having discussed the matter with 
DeLoach. 

But he conceded under questioning that the DeLoach 
memo “sounds very plausible. I’m sure the President called 
me or he told me to tell him whatever” the document re- 
flected. 

“Did the President tell you that he understood that 
Bradlee was saying all over town that the Bureau had been 
offering tapes?” 

“I can’t remember the details of that. You know, I can’t 
tell you the number of times the President was sounding 
off at Bradlee.” 

Also suffering a loss of memory was Katzenbach, Robert 
Kennedy’s successor as Attorney General. When William 
Safire suggested that he had condoned the wiretapping 
and bugging of Dr. King, for which Hoover had been so 
much maligned, Katzenbach angrily demanded an apology 
from the columnist. 

Great was Katzenbach’s surprise when he was con- 
fronted with what appeared to be his initials on documents 
authorizing the FBI to bug and wiretap Dr. King. He said 
he had no recollection of ever receiving the several mem- 
oranda containing the initials “N. deB. K.” and if he had, 
he would most certainly have recalled them. 

“Mr. Katzenbach,” he was asked by the minority coun- 
sel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “are you sug- 
gesting that what appears to be your initials on these docu- 
ments in fact represent forgeries?” 

“Let me be just as clear about that as I can,” Katzen- 
bach replied. “I have no recollection of receiving those 
documents, and I seriously believe that I would have recol- 
lected them had I received them. If they are my initials 



218 VICTOR LASKY 

and if I put them on, then I am clearly mistaken in that 
recollection.” 

He insisted that the idea of bugging King’s hotel room 
would have been repugnant to him. 

Yet he conceded he had handwritten a note to Hoover 
on December 10, 1965, cautioning that “these are par- 
ticularly delicate surveillances” and urging the importance 
of not involving “non-FBI people” in their installations. 

“This document was found in the Bureau’s King file,” 
Katzenbach was told. “Do you remember what surveil- 
lances you were making references to, what delicate sur- 
veillances?” 

“I don’t recall . . 

“In your opinion, could this note have referred to the 
three mentioned electronic surveillances against Dr. King?” 
“On the face it says that it did. If I remember any recol- 
lection whatsoever of the first three documents, then it 
would seem to me to be a possibility. I point out that it 
could refer to almost everything.” 

Katzenbach’s amazing forgetfulness in the face of docu- 
ments carrying his initials and handwriting aroused none 
of the dismay which greeted the memory lapses of some 
Watergate figures. The media said virtually nothing about 
Katzenbach. More importantly the Special Prosecutor’s Of- 
fice which had, for example, prosecuted Dwight Chapin 
for not recalling what he had told Segretti, evinced no in- 
terest in the Katzenbach case. Chapin, of course, had 
gone to jail. Katzenbach went on to bigger and better 
things, one being a directorship of the Washington Post 
Company. There was a protest, however, at the 1976 cor- 
porate meeting. Washington attorney William Moore, hold- 
ing an “Accuracy in Media” proxy, challenged the nomina- 
tion on the grounds that, as Attorney General, Katzenbach 
had approved the FBI’s “snoop and smear” tactics against 
Dr. King. Moore also noted that though at first Katzenbach 
had denied knowledge of the taps, it developed later that 
he had authorized them. Questioning whether Katzenbach 
should be elected to the board of the Washington Post if 
the charges were true, Moore invited the former Attorney 
General to comment on them. Katzenbach declined to 
do so. And Post publisher Kay Graham didn’t think it was 
necessary either, since, she claimed, he had already done 
so elsewhere. The Post , of course, had achieved a world- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 219 

wide reputation for its concern about civil liberties and its 
steadfast opposition to cover-ups. 

What people did sexually was always of tremendous in- 
terest to Lyndon Johnson. Consequently J. Edgar Hoover 
kept feeding the President startling tidbits about the kinky 
preferences of the high and mighty. LBJ exploded in laugh- 
ter when, for example, he was told that a prominent Re- 
publican senator had been visiting a high-class Chicago 
whorehouse where his peculiar tastes were gratified. The 
informant, LBJ was told, was none other than the madam 
herself. 

The Bureau had also planted bugs in two expensive 
bordellos in the Washington area. A high-placed source 
told Newsweek that there was a national security rationale 
for this. “The Bureau hoped to obtain tapes of foreign 
diplomats in compromising situations, to be used possibly 
in blackmailing them into working for the U.S.” 

But on several occasions the bugs picked up congressmen 
and other prominent Americans. Hoover, said Newsweek, 
would pass such intelligence on to Johnson, who often de- 
lighted in placing FBI dossiers on his desk in the Oval 
Office while subjecting vulnerable congressmen to political 
armtwisting. 

And it was Joe Califano, of all people, who told the story 
of how his former boss” even had one Senator’s mistress 
contacted to have her persuade her lover to vote to break 
a filibuster.”* 

Like occupants of the Oval Office before and after him, 
LBJ had no compunction about “leaking” stories to the 
press when it benefited him. But he had a “peculiar ob- 
session” with leaks that didn’t bear his imprimatur, ac- 
cording to Carl Rowan, who served under LBJ in several 
capacities. Rowan recalls that in 1961 Vice President 
Johnson told a startled group of State Department officials: 
“You’re just a bunch of goddamned puppy dogs, running 
from one fire hydrant to the next.” 

As President LBJ had no compunction either about 
calling on the FBI to make “name checks” of media per- 
sonalities. Years later the Senate Intelligence Committee 

♦The story is told in Califano’s recent book, A Presidential Nation 
(New York: Norton, 1975). The number of times Califano mentions 
“paranoia” in referring to his White House years is revealing. 



220 



VICTOR LASKY 



determined that at least seven prominent journalists were 
so honored. They included NBC commentator David Brink- 
ley, Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett, columnists 
Joseph Kraft and Peter Lisagor, and Life's Richard Stolley 
(now managing editor of People ). 

Like Mrs. Roosevelt LBJ would also make unusual 
requests of the Bureau. He had heard rumors about the 
peculiar sexual habits of a boyfriend of one of his daugh- 
ters. He asked the FBI to check them out discreetly. In 
this case the President’s worst suspicions were confirmed. 

According to The New York Times, LBJ also received 
details about Senator Robert Kennedy’s personal activities 
and nightlife in Paris from what were described as “in- 
telligence sources.” This apparently was in early 1967 
when Bobby charged around Europe talking to diplomats 
about the Vietnam war — and at night seeking out the com- 
pany of such beautiful people as Candice Bergen. LBJ 
wanted all the details. 

There had, of course, been rumors about LBJ’s own in- 
terest in the ladies. Those rumors surfaced recently when 
Sally Quinn interviewed a young woman, once a con- 
fidante of the late President, who claimed that LBJ had 
even proposed marriage to her. The woman, Doris Kearns, 
now an associate professor of history at Harvard, was writ- 
ing a book about LBJ. 

Though the Johnson family said nothing about this dis- 
closure, Bill Moyers said it was possible. “While I don’t 
really know whether or not he ever said to Doris what 
she says he said,” said Moyers, “I suspect she heard ac- 
curately what he said without understanding what he 
meant.” 

“LBJ,” Moyers continued, “said many things to many 
people in the heat of anger, in the wiles of persuasion and 
in the passion of frustration which every President faces. 
He was given to stretching the truth to as thin a soup as 
necessary to feed a lot of people. . . . He never proposed 
marriage to me, but he made me feel sometimes as if I 
might be an illegitimate son.” 

And there were times toward the end of their relation- 
ship when LBJ most definitely considered Billie-boy “ille- 
gitimate.” There was little love, at least on LBJ’s part, when 
the former Baptist minister decided to leave the “planta- 
tion,” as the White House was being called because of the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 221 

way LBJ cracked the whip. The reason Moyers quit — LBJ 
told Walter Trohan — was because he wanted to be Secre- 
tary of State and Johnson didn’t consider him qualified. 

At that time Marvin Watson had become the overseer 
of the “plantation.” He was called in from Dallas, where 
he had been the assistant to the president of the Lone 
Star Steel Company as well as chairman of the Texas State 
Democratic Committee. Joining LBJ’s staff as appoint- 
ments secretary, Watson was introduced to reporters by the 
President himself. “Marvin,” said LBJ, “is as wise as my 
daddy, gentle as my mama, and loyal to my side as Lady 
Bird.” 

Reporters soon discovered that Watson was running a 
veritable Gestapo in the White House. “To begin with,” 
wrote Joseph Alsop on January 17, 1966, 

a part of the curious espionage system to which mem- 
bers of the White House staff are subjected has been 
rudely brought into t^e open. All staff members’ 
telephone calls are noted. All places they visit outside 
the White House are reported by the government 
chauffeurs. And these lists of contacts are nightly 
studied, for symptoms of dangerous associations, by 
the President’s new alter ego, Marvin Watson. 

Moyers had come up with an extraordinary explanation 
for Watson’s nightly list perusals. The press secretary said 
they were solely motivated by a desire to achieve operating 
economies. 

“Yet,” Alsop continued, 

it is of course an open secret that the telephone and 
limousine checks are only parts of a much wider sys- 
tem of surveillance that now covers most of the city 
of Washington. It is informal, but it works very 
efficiently. 

In brief, a great many sleazy persons are now aware 
that the quickest way to make brownie points at the 
White House is to pass the word that X has been seen 
talking to Y. Thus it is now an odds-on bet that any 
X-Y meeting in a restaurant or other public place, will 
soon be added to the White House’s dangerous associa- 
tions list. 



222 



VICTOR LASKY 



In addition, wrote Alsop, “the President’s attempts at 
news control are much more aggressive, comprehensive, 
and, one must add, repugnant to the American tradition, 
than any such attempts by other Presidents.” Only sharp 
protests, for example, prevented a total news control system 
from being instituted at the State Department. 

The explanation by Moyers was most revealing. “It’s very 
important for a President to maintain his options up until 
the moment of decision. And for someone to speculate, 
days or weeks in advance, that he is going to do thus and 
thus, is to deny to the President the latitude he needs in 
order to make, in the light of the existing circumstances, 
the best possible decision.” 

To which Alsop commented: 

Taken literally, this extraordinary statement appears 
to mean that the President cannot do whatever his 
duty requires him to do, if someone or other has al- 
ready suggested in print that this is indeed what his 
duty will require. . . . Most Presidents have, of 
course, tried, in one way or another, to manipulate 
the front and editorial pages of the press. But no 
previous President has claimed the right to keep from 
the country the basic facts of the national situation 
unless he sees fit to divulge them. This is the novelty, 
and a most alarming novelty it is! 

LBJ’s interest in other people’s private business went 
back to his days in the Senate, according to Abigail Mc- 
Carthy. The wife of former Senator Eugene McCarthy, 
Abigail tells in her book how, in Johnson’s years as Ma- 
jority Leader, 

he frequently boasted in off-the-record sessions that 
no telephone call went in or out of the Senate wing or 
the office buildings that he did not know about. News 
people who visited his ranch and telephoned out their 
stories told half humorously of incidents when they 
could hear heavy breathing on the line as they did 
so. One woman reporter was quoted as having said, 
“Was that all right, Mr. President?” when she finished. 
The story was probably apocryphal but was widely 
believed. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 223 

By the summer of 1966, Mrs. McCarthy continued, 

it was taken for granted that most office phones and 
the phones in officials’ houses were tapped. This was 
probably absurd, considering the number of man- 
hours that would have been involved in such wide- 
scale surveillance. Yet the fact that it was believed 
and acted upon is evidence of the unhealthy miasma 
of fear and doubt which hung over the city. 

The wife of a high official in the Administration 
who had been my friend told me quite seriously that 
we should communicate with each other by note or 
personal visit in some neutral place. 

After Gene McCarthy declared he would contest LBJ for 
the nomination, the official’s wife arranged for Abigail to 
meet her at New York’s Grand Central Station, where it 
could appear that they had run into each other by ac- 
cident. 

Such was life in LBJ’s Washington. 

According to the Sullivan memorandum, it was Marvin 
Watson who asked the FBI to “monitor” the Senate For- 
eign Relations Committee hearings on the Vietnam war. 
The President, Watson said, was worried about “his 
policies losing ground.” The President also wanted the 
Bureau to check out rumors that Chairman Fulbright 
and perhaps other committee members were receiving in- 
formation from Communists. But, according to Sullivan, 
“there was no evidence of this.” 

A similar White House request, according to an FBI 
memo prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, was 
channeled through Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who 
supplied a presidential aide with a summary of informa- 
tion concerning the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear 
Policy. 

LBJ was convinced that the Soviets (if not, the Chicoms) 
were behind much of the opposition to Vietnam in the 
Congress and the media. Thanks to the FBI he would boast 
about how he knew within minutes just what Fulbright 
had told the Soviet ambassador at lunch at the embassy 
and what Russian agents had told other members of Con- 
gress at cocktail parties. 

On another occasion, according to the Sullivan memo- 



224 



VICTOR LASKY 



randum, LBJ asked the FBI to find out whether top Re- 
publicans hadn’t encouraged the July 1964 race riots in 
Manhattan as a means of embarrassing the White House. 
When the FBI reported it could find no such evidence, 
the President asked again, “Weren’t there at least one or 
two Republicans involved?’’ And again the answer was no. 

On other occasions Johnson was convinced that the 
Chinese Communists were bankrolling Black militants in 
the ghettos as well as the peace marches in the streets. 
“I damn well know there’s Red Chinese money involved,” 
he told aides. 

After one big “peace” rally in New York, LBJ told re- 
porters at his ranch that he was carefully reading a 
lengthy FBI report on who was behind the “anti-war ac- 
tivity.” It was after this particular rally, at which Dr. 
King spoke, that the FBI was given the go-ahead to cir- 
culate stories about King’s “moral turpitude.” Even more 
significant was the fact that those who wrote to the Presi- 
dent protesting his Vietnam policies invariably received 
replies from the Internal Security Division of the Justice 
Department. 

“Some of President Johnson’s requests parallel those of 
President Roosevelt twenty-five years earlier,” commented 
a staff report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The 
FBI complied with White House requests for name checks 
on dozens of persons who signed telegrams critical of U.S. 
Vietnam policy in 1965. The names of other Presidential 
critics were also sent to the Bureau to be checked and re- 
ported on, as were the names of critics of the Warren 
Commission. The FBI also volunteered reports on Presi- 
dential critics.” 

LBJ also went overboard in sending the FBI into the 
Dominican Republic when leftists mounted an effort to 
seize control there. It was a complicated situation, one 
involving an effort by the ineffectual Juan Bosch to resume 
the presidency of that tiny Caribbean nation. On sending 
U.S. Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett back to Santo Do- 
mingo, LBJ said sternly that under no condition would he 
permit “another Cuba in this hemisphere.” Above all, the 
President did not want Bosch back in power. “Giving the 
Dominican Republic back to Juan Bosch,” he said, “would 
be like turning it over to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.” 

Perhaps there was a need for American intervention. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 225 

But LBJ muddied the waters when he exaggerated the 
dangers faced by Americans remaining in the Dominican 
Republic. In fact he made up stories out of the whole 
cloth to explain the necessity for sending in the Marines. 

At one news conference LBJ said: “Some fifteen hun- 
dred innocent people were murdered and shot, and their 
heads cut off, and ... as we talked to our Ambassador 
to confirm the horror and tragedy and the unbelievable 
fact that they were firing on Americans and the American 
Embassy, he was talking to us from under a desk, while 
bullets were going through his windows, and he had a 
thousand American men, women and children assembled in 
the hotel who were pleading with their President to help 
preserve their lives.” 

Testifying later before the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee, Bennett termed the whole story a fabrication. 
No one had been beheaded; no bullets had splattered the 
embassy; and he had never had to hide under his desk. 

The dispatch of FBI agents to a foreign clime was actual- 
ly unnecessary. They were supposed to look for Com- 
munists seeking to seize the Dominican Republic. But, if 
anything, that was a job for the CIA, not the FBI. As two 
Bureau officials later told Dan Thomasson of Scripps- 
Howard News Service, the gesture was “purely political” 
and “strictly for domestic political consumption.” The FBI 
had no reason to be there. 

Also according to Thomasson, LBJ frequently manipu- 
lated investigations of his appointees. There was, of course, 
the President’s effort to influence the FBI report on Walter 
Jenkins. Other examples included a man being considered 
for an ambassadorial post who had some personal problems. 
Several former FBI officials claimed that Johnson asked 
them to “interview twenty-five persons, and when we turned 
up derogatory information he asked for thirty-five and 
then forty-five to balance off the bad data.” At last LBJ 
ordered Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s top assistant, to conduct a 
“final interview,” and LBJ made the appointment on the 
basis of that interview. 

Rarely had any other Chief Executive taken such a di- 
rect interest in the FBI and its functions. This went for 
other federal agencies as well. Thus LBJ kept personally 
informed on major tax cases. And the President, who had 
no right to such information, would enjoy talking about 



226 



VICTOR LASKY 



confidential IRS findings with his cronies. Of course this 
was nothing new. 

Biographer Alfred Steinberg tells the story of how LBJ 
reacted when a TV news commentator on the 11:00 p.m. 
news made a mildly critical comment about the President. 
“I was expecting a tax refund from Internal Revenue 
at the time,” the commentator said, “but a few days later 
I was notified that court action would soon be instituted 
against me for failure to pay my taxes. I was certain the 
IRS had made a mistake, but my lawyer told me that I was 
in for real trouble: Johnson had heard me make the 
offending remark. So I took the only course available to 
me. I called Sheldon Cohen, the director of IRS, and told 
him I wanted to run a special half-hour show directly with 
him and also work up a series of a half-dozen shows on 
the wonders of the Internal Revenue Service. The tax ac- 
tion was dropped.” 

LBJ was particularly sensitive, and justifiably so, about 
false rumors concerning his own possible complicity in 
the Kennedy assassination. From the moment the evil deed 
occurred, irresponsible rumormongers began noting that it 
had taken place in LBJ’s own state on a political mission 
that had been urgently requested by Johnson. 

The new President immediately set up a blue-ribbon 
commission headed by Chief Justice Warren to make a 
painstaking investigation of the tragic events of November 
22 and issue a report on its findings to the nation. The 
Warren Commission issued a document of nearly 900 
pages which, claiming there was no plot, pointed the 
finger directly at Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole slayer. 

From the beginning, however, there were critics of the 
Warren Report. Some of them, for example, did not be- 
lieve that Oswald — if he were indeed involved — was the 
sole killer. Others could not believe that a single bullet 
could have passed through the bodies of both Kennedy and 
Governor John Connally. 

The “assassination critics,” as they were called, began 
to receive a great amount of attention. One of them, in 
fact, wrote a best-selling book called Rush to Judgment. 
All of which renewed doubts about Dallas, as well as pro- 
moting conspiracy theories. 

In 1965 Marvin Watson asked the FBI to provide the 
White House with background information on seven of the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 227 

critics. Members of the commission also received copies of 
the FBI data. In January 1975 Hale Boggs, Jr., disclosed 
that his father, the late Representative Hale Boggs, who 
had been a member of the commission, received a file 
from the FBI with derogatory information about the 
critics of the commission’s work.* But the report that went 
to the White House apparently was much more detailed 
than that received by the Louisiana Democrat. Portions of 
the FBI document were leaked to friendly newsmen. And 
Lyndon Johnson was pleased that the leftwing backgrounds 
of several of the critics were well publicized. For he felt 
that many of the critics had been aiming their shafts at 
him. 

Like other presidents LBJ could brook no criticism. But 
he responded in a particularly ill-tempered manner when 
Eartha Kitt attacked the Vietnam war at a White House 
luncheon given by Lady Bird. It was a boorish thing for 
the Black songstress to do; but it hardly called for a CIA 
investigation — which is exactly what occurred. 

A file on Miss Kitt’s background was hastily compiled 
ancf transmitted to the White House. It contained numer- 
ous allegations concerning her romantic attachments. What 
they had to do with national security is difficult to under- 
stand. The reason the CIA was brought in, it was said, 
was because of Miss Kitt’s long residence in foreign coun- 
tries. But the FBI was active, too, as it turned out. In her 
book Alone with Me , Miss Kitt contends that LBJ per- 
sonally ordered a “subversive name check” on her just 
hours after her clash with Mrs. Johnson. And she re- 
produced sections of an FBI dossier compiled on her ac- 
tivities by several government agencies, including the CIA 
and the National Security Agency. 

At a Washington Post Book and Author Luncheon in 
February 1976 Miss Kitt challenged former LBJ aide Jack 
Valenti’s syrupy appraisal of the late President. “You said 
that he had a good side to him,” Miss Kitt said in her 
sultry voice. But, she went on, “there was one thing that 
struck me so strongly, that personally I have knowledge 

♦Hoover would frequently refer to Boggs as “the old drunk from 
Louisiana.” Boggs, in later years, would insist that he and other 
members of Congress had been wiretapped by the FBI, but he was 
never able to produce any proof to support his charge. 



228 



VICTOR LASKY 



of, that he was mean.” She claimed that after the White 
House episode her career as an entertainer was severely 
damaged in the United States. 

The CIA became involved with domestic dissidents in a 
big way after numerous requests by Johnson for informa- 
tion linking the “peaceniks” with Communist governments. 
On August 15, 1967, Richard Helms, then CIA director, 
set up a unit within the Agency’s Counterintelligence Of- 
fice to check into the possibility of such foreign links. 

* Johnson, meanwhile, had appointed a commission 
headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois to study racial 
outbreaks and find a way to prevent more of them. One 
of the first requests of the Kerner Commission was to 
the CIA for any information the Agency might have de- 
veloped about foreign stimulation of the ghetto riots. Helms 
wrote back, saying that while the Agency had no involve- 
ment in domestic security, the CIA did have some limited 
material from abroad which might be of interest. 

In all, files on about 10,000 American citizens were 
eventually established in the Counterintelligence Office. 
About two-thirds of them were originated because of re- 
quests by the FBI for information on the activities of 
Americans abroad, or by the filing of reports received 
from the FBI. These were the files made famous by Sey- 
mour M. Hersh in The New York Times. According to 
Hersh, the CIA had “conducted a massive illegal domestic 
intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration 
against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups 
in the United States.” The trouble with his story was not 
only that it exaggerated what had taken place but that it 
pinned the blame largely on the Nixon administration. The 
truth is that much of what were alleged to have been di- 
rect violations of the CIA charter originated and were 
carried out under Johnson. 

A number of former Johnson administration officials 
claimed there was no presidential directive ordering the 
CIA to set up a special office to handle domestic in- 
telligence about radical and antiwar groups. Helms had 
testified under oath that he had initiated the special office 
“in response to the express concern of the President.” 

One of those officials, however, Dean Rusk, did recall 
that the administration had developed some “hard evi- 
dence” that foreign governments were indeed involved in 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 229 

supporting the anti-war efforts. The administration decided 
against making its information available, Rusk said, be- 
cause “we didn’t want to smear all the others who were 
legitimately against the war.” 

Joe Calif ano, who had been a special assistant to LBJ 
and later general counsel to the Democratic National Com- 
mittee, said he was “stunned, really stunned” when he 
read the story about Dick Helms’s testimony. The former 
aide said he had no knowledge of any presidential directive 
authorizing the CIA to monitor radical activities. Califano, 
who had been directly involved in the White House re- 
sponse to the civil rights riots and other disturbances in 
the 1960s, said, “I had to ask myself after reading it — 
were there two White Houses in 1967?” 

There also appeared to be two Ramsey Clarks. One was 
the more widely known liberal Clark, so liberal, in fact, 
that in one of his more private moments Johnson said of 
his Attorney General: “If Stokely Carmichael was knock- 
ing at the White House door with a Bowie knife in one 
hand and a pistol in the other, Ramsey Clark wouldn’t 
arrest him.” 

The other, perhaps the more real Clark, was Attorney 
General when domestic spying was escalated to an enor- 
mous operation, aimed at Black community leaders, anti- 
war activists, New Left radicals — anyone the adminis- 
tration regarded as a threat to national security. And all 
of this was done on Clark’s express directions. 

Ever since 1968 when he left Washington, however, 
Clark has been in the forefront of movements to defend 
dissenters, violent or otherwise. Not only did he emerge 
as a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, but he 
has devoted considerable time as an attorney to represent- 
ing extremists in trouble with the law. Needless to say, he 
is now opposed to the very kind of secret government 
activities which he himself assiduously promoted as Attor- 
ney General. 

Except that Clark has never leveled with his public on 
what kind of shady activities he engaged in as the nation’s 
chief legal officer — that is, “shady” in* light of the post- 
Watergate morality. 

The story was told in part by the President’s Commis- 
sion on CIA Activities Within the United States, which 
was headed by Vice President Rockefeller. Generally over- 



230 



VICTOR LASKY 



looked in the coverage of the report to President Ford was 
the startling finding that it was “the Justice Department 
under Attorney General Ramsey Clark (which) established 
the first in a series of secret units designed to collate and 
evaluate information concerning the growing domestic dis- 
order and violence.” 

The finding was especially startling because of Clark’s 
image as one who has been excessively liberal in his ap- 
proach to dissenters. And it was because of that image 
that Nixon, during his 1968 campaign, argued the necessity 
of ridding Washington of the overly permissive Clark for a 
tougher Attorney General. 

Just as startling was the Rockefeller Commission’s dis- 
closure of the identity of the man who assisted Clark in 
getting the “goods” on dissenters. Why, it was none other 
than that paragon of virtue, the Honorable John Doar, who 
later was to make a name for himself as the “fearless” 
counsel to the House Judiciary Committee in its Nixon 
impeachment proceedings. (Among the charges leveled 
against Nixon by Doar was that the President had tram- 
pled on the civil liberties of antiwar people and other non- 
conformists.) 

To quote the Rockefeller Report: 

In early fall, 1967, Attorney General Clark asked 
John Doar, Assistant Attorney General for Civil 
Rights, to report on the Department’s facilities for 
organizing information on individuals involved in civil 
disorders. On September 27, 1967, Doar recommended 
establishment of a “single intelligence unit to an- 
alyze the FBI information we receive about certain 
persons and groups who make the urban ghetto their 
base of operation.” 

The FBI was to constitute only one source of in- 
formation for the proposed unit. As additional 
sources, Doar suggested federal poverty programs, 
Labor Department programs, and neighborhood legal 
services. Doar recognized the “sensitivity” of using 
such additional sources, but he nevertheless thought 
these sources would have access to relevant facts. 
Other sources of dissident information suggested by 
Doar included the intelligence unit of the Internal 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 231 

Revenue Service and perhaps the Post Office Depart- 
ment. The CIA was not among the proposed sources. 

In a memorandum dated November 9, 1967, Attorney 
General Clark gave full approval to Doar’s recommenda- 
tion. Clark found it “imperative” that the Justice Depart- 
ment obtain “the most comprehensive intelligence possible 
regarding organized or other purposeful stimulation of do- 
mestic dissension, civil disorders and riots.” He appointed 
a committee of four assistant attorneys general to make 
recommendations concerning the organization and func- 
tioning of the proposed unit. 

“Planning and creation of the unit must be kept in 
strictest confidence,” Clark’s memorandum stated. 

On December 6, 1967, the committee suggested that the 
new unit, in addition to analyzing FBI information, should 
develop contacts with other intelligence agencies, includ- 
ing the CIA, as sources of possible information. Follow- 
ing this recommendation, Clark directed the organization 
of the Interdivision Information Unit. 

Objectives of the IDIU were: “. . . reviewing and re- 
ducing to quickly retrievable form all information that 
may come to this Department relating to organizations 
and individuals throughout the country who may play a 
role, whether purposefully or not, either in instigating or 
spreading civil disorders or in preventing or checking 
them.” 

After its organization, the IDIU also began collecting, 
collating, and computerizing information on antiwar ac- 
tivists and other dissidents. Daily reports went directly to 
Ramsey Clark’s office. Regular reports went to the White 
House. 

Doar’s memo to Clark, written September 27, 1967, 
after he had returned to Washington following the De- 
troit riots, noted that a “special problem” existed with the 
Community Relations Service, an agency formed by the 
1964 Civil Rights Act to help solve disputes in that area. 
“Generally,” said Doar, “the service feels that if it passes 
on information it learns in the course of its business about 
activities in the urban areas that [sic] it will lose its 
credibility with people in the ghetto. My personal view is 
that the service is in the Department of Justice and should 



232 



VICTOR LASKY 



bring to the Department’s attention any information which 
you request it to furnish.” 

Roger Wilkins, then head of the Community Relations 
Service, thought otherwise. He claimed his people were al- 
ready too busy trying to break down the suspicion in Black 
areas that they were spies. Now a member of the editorial 
board of The New York Times , Wilkins says he “made it 
clear to Ramsey Clark” that he would not seek to turn over 
such information. 

Nevertheless Doar’s memo did lead to the creation of 
a computerized intelligence file that eventually grew to 
contain some 18,000 names of all kinds of dissidents and 
troublemakers. 

So now we know, thanks particularly to the Rockefeller 
Report, that not all the Watergate-type activity started with 
the Nixon administration. Much of it was begun by those 
who bellowed the loudest about Watergate — namely, lib- 
erals like Clark and Doar. 

And while we do not yet know the entire story of this 
turbulent period, it is clear from the fragmentary record 
that, as William Greider reported in the Washington Post, 
“thousands of informers were recruited in black neighbor- 
hoods, phones were tapped, mail and bank accounts were 
inspected, community organizations infiltrated, campus 
groups watched.” There were also illegal break-ins. 

Many of these activities were exposed when thieves 
broke into the FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania, and 
“liberated” 1,200 confidential Bureau documents. The 
thieves, calling themselves the Citizen’s Commission to In- 
vestigate the FBI, sent Xerox copies of the documents to 
newspapermen and other interested parties. Among other 
things the documents demonstrated that the FBI was fol- 
lowing Clark’s orders to enlist undercover agents in the 
ghettos in order to obtain advance warning of riots and 
other outbursts. 

And as a former FBI official explained, “We used the 
same kind of program against the dissidents and the revo- 
lutionaries as we used against the Klan.” But some of the 
informers, according to court testimony, became agents 
provocateurs, encouraging or even leading the targets of 
their spying into acts of violence. 

According to Greider, “neither Republicans nor Dem- 
ocrats were eager to investigate the implications” of the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 233 

“Media papers” — “not even Senator Ervin, whose Judiciary 
Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights was alarmed by 
Army spying but not by FBI spying.” 

Military spying on civilians was another operation un- 
leashed by the Johnson administration. Originating under 
Secretary of Defense McNamara, the covert actions were 
deemed necessary because of “national security” considera- 
tions. Much of the army surveillance was directed against 
antiwar militants, some of whom were plotting to sabotage 
military installations. The army brass, for the most part, 
objected to this unwanted activity. As did the FBI, whose 
director felt it constituted competition by not-too-well- 
trained sleuths. Eventually, under the glare of embarrassing 
publicity, the program was abolished. 

During the Johnson years espionage, wiretapping, and 
other “dirty tricks” were not only used against radical dis- 
senters but against LBJ’s political adversaries. Thus, during 
the 1968 campaign, Nixon found himself the object of 
FBI surveillance. As he later told James J. Kilpatrick, 
“There was not only surveillance by the FBI, but bugging 
by the FBI, and Hoover told me that my plane in the last 
two weeks was bugged.” Hoover told Nixon this when he 
visited the President-elect at the Hotel Pierre in New York 
during the 1968 interregnum. 

There can be little doubt that Johnson was anxious to 
learn everything he could about the Republican candidate 
and runningmate Spiro Agnew. In fact a file of “sensitive” 
information about the relatively unknown former governor 
of Maryland was assembled by the FBI for transmittal to 
the White House. What LBJ was looking for, as usual, was 
personal dirt to be used to promote Humphrey’s, cam- 
paign for the presidency. 

In addition LBJ ordered the FBI through “Deke” De- 
Loach to make a check of phone calls made by Agnew 
from his campaign plane. Also requested were the tele- 
phone toll records of members of the Agnew staff. Again 
the rationale was “national security.” 

One of the FBI’s major assignments was to find out 
whether Agnew or anyone on his staff was in touch with 
South Vietnamese officials in Washington in an effort to 
sabotage the Paris peace talks launched by Johnson. The 
National Security Agency reportedly had intercepted a 
cable to Saigon transmitted from its Washington Embassy 



234 



VICTOR LASKY 



advising the Thieu regime that it would get a better deal 
from Washington if the Nixon- Agnew ticket were elected. 

When a copy of that cable reached LBJ, an irate Presi- 
dent demanded an immediate FBI investigation. The en- 
suing developments were described in testimony before the 
Senate Intelligence Committee by “Deke” DeLoach: 

“I received a call from Mr. James Jones, who was the 
top assistant to the President . . . late one evening, and 
he indicated the President wanted information concerning 
either Mr. Nixon or Mr. Agnew insofar as toll calls being 
made from Albuquerque, New Mexico, were concerned. I 
told Mr. Jones I felt this was not a correct thing to do, 
particularly at this time of night, and while we would try 
to comply with the President’s specific request, we would 
not do it that night. 

“The President then called me personally in my office 
late that night and indicated that did he understand my 
refusal to Mr. Jones correctly; and I said, yes, he did. I 
said I thought that it would be wrong for us to try to ob- 
tain such information that late at night. The President 
then proceeded to tell me that he was the Commander in 
Chief and that when he needed information of that nature, 
he should get it. However, (after) I reiterated my ob- 
jections . . . the President indicated all right, try to get it 
the following day.” 

Which is what DeLoach did. The next morning he re- 
ceived Hoover’s permission to proceed with the investiga- 
tion. The first move was to have the FBI field office in 
Albuquerque check the record of toll calls made from 
the Agnew plane wehn it was in New Mexico some days 
previously. And, according to former Governor David F. 
Cargo of New Mexico, the phones in the governor’s man- 
sion in Santa Fe were tapped during a visit by the vice 
presidential candidate. 

Also initiated with LBJ’s approval was the wiretapping 
and physical surveillance of Anna Chennault, widow of 
famed World War II Flying Tiger General Claire Chen- 
nault and an avid money raiser for the 1968 Nixon cam- 
paign. It was LBJ’s belief that Mrs. Chennault was seek- 
ing to mobilize the opposition of the Taiwan, South Ko- 
rean, and South Vietnamese governments to the Paris 
peace talks seeking an end to U.S. involvement in South- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 235 

east Asia. And how did LBJ get any such idea? According 
to Theodore White, Mrs. Chennault had “neglected to 
take the most elementary precautions of an intriguer, and 
her communications with Asia had been tapped by the 
American Government and brought directly to the perusal 
of President Johnson.” 

LBJ, though not a candidate for reelection in 1968, 
wanted to do everything possible to get Humphrey to replace 
him in the Oval Office. So he notified Humphrey of what 
White described as “the sabotage of the negotiations and 
the recalcitrance of the Saigon Government.” 

In other words, what had been obtained in the name 
of “national security” was being used for domestic political 
purposes. 

DeLoach was also in charge of this operation. As he 
testified, it was his recollection that “the Executive Secre- 
tary of the National Security Council, Mr. J. Bromley Smith, 
called me on one occasion and indicated the President of 
the United States wanted this done. I told Mr. Smith that I 
thought what he should do is call the Attorney General con- 
cerning this matter, and I believe either Mr. Hoover or I 
later received a call from the Attorney General indicating 
that this should be done.” 

“Was it done?” asked Senator John Tower of Texas. 

“There was a physical surveillance on Mrs. Chennault, 
yes, sir.” 

“What did it include?” 

“The usual physical surveillance, as I recall, Senator, 
following her to places where she went in the city of 
Washington, and . . . also a trip that she made to New 
York.” 

“Did it involve the constant monitoring of any and all 
of her incoming and outgoing telephone calls?” 

“I believe the instructions of the President and the 
specific instruction and approval of the Attorney General, 
that a wiretap was placed on her telephone, sir.” 

“So during the period of time between October 30 and 
November 7, all her telephonic communications were mon- 
itored by the Bureau?” 

“I don’t recall the specific dates, Senator, but I do know 
that such surveillance was established.” 

“Who was the Attorney General at the time?” 



236 



VICTOR LASKY 



“I believe that would have been Mr. Clark.”* 

Whether Humphrey was aware that the Chennault ma- 
terial had been obtained through illegal wiretapping and 
physical surveillance is not known. But the Democratic 
candidate conceded that he sent his own campaign aide, 
James Rowe, to the South Vietnamese ambassador with a 
warning that the Thieu regime had better cooperate in 
Paris lest, should Humphrey be elected, Marshal Thieu 
“would rue the day.” Humphrey later denied that he knew 
anything of wiretapping and physical surveillance of the 
Chinese-born socialite. 

And Mrs. Chennault denied she had anything to do 
with any conspiracy to thwart the peace talks, claiming she 
was being made a “scapegoat.” Even if she had, she still 
was within her constitutional rights to urge foreign gov- 
ernments to do whatever she wanted them to do. In her 
denial, however, she castigated “inaccurate political cal- 
culations in high places by those who presumably had all 
instrumentalities of intelligence at their disposal.” 

Humphrey was aware of what the FBI had done during 
the 1964 Democratic Convention. He knew, for example, 
that Johnson had used a special FBI team equipped with 
wiretaps and bugs to spy on troublemakers in Atlantic 
City. According to a memo from Hoover to his top as- 
sociates including DeLoach, the director told of a con- 
versation he had with William Connell, executive assistant 
to Humphrey. Dated August 15, 1968, the memo stated: 
“William Connell . . . had talked to the Vice President 
about the team I sent into the Convention area in 1964 
that was so helpful. He stated he was hoping perhaps I 
might be able to do the same thing for the Vice President 
out in Chicago and have my men directly in contact with 
him [Connell].” 

Though Humphrey did obtain limited FBI assistance, the 
Vice President did not get “the same thing” that LBJ 
had gotten four years previously. The reason was that At- 
torney General Clark, who had been willing to approve the 
Doar plan to spy on dissidents, not being a Humphrey 

♦Clark’s position on wiretapping as Attorney General was erratic. 
Though he approved the Chennault operation, he had turned down 
previous FBI requests to install “a technical surveillance” at offices 
of New Left organizations planning demonstrations at the 1968 
Democratic National Convention. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 237 

man, refused to authorize the “telephone surveillance” re- 
quested by the FBI. “There has not been an adequate 
demonstration of a direct threat to the national security,” 
Clark informed Hoover. 

A week after Connell had talked to Hoover, “Deke” De- 
Loach received a call from John Criswell, treasurer of the 
Democratic National Committee. And in a memo dated 
August 22, 1968, DeLoach reported that Criswell had had 
dinner the previous night with Marvin Watson. Then Post- 
master General, Watson “had informed him of the great 
service performed by the FBI during the last Democratic 
Convention in Atlantic City . . . Criswell wanted to know if 
the same services could be performed this time in Chicago. 
He also asked if I could personally go out and take charge, 
as was the case in Atlantic City.” 

DeLoach informed Criswell that Connell had already 
talked to Director Hoover about the matter. “I stated the 
Director had made complete arrangements to have a top- 
flight group of experienced agents, under the supervision of 
the Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office, handle 
this assignment. I told Criswell I felt certain these men 
would do an excellent job and the Vice President’s office 
would be kept fully advised at all times of need-to-know 
information.” 

The significance of the memo is that a functionary of 
the Democratic National Committee could feel free to call 
on a top FBI official for assistance in gathering political 
intelligence. 

The CIA had also gotten into the act. One of its agents, 
posing as a private detective, investigated the personal life 
of one of Nixon’s aides during the 1968 campaign. The 
target of the inquiry was Richard V. Allen, the Republican 
candidate’s pre-Kissinger foreign policy adviser. 

The CIA operative was identified as Franklin R. Geraty. 
On June 25, 1968, two weeks after Allen joined the Nixon 
staff, Geraty appeared in the offices of a banker in Palo 
Alto, California, where Allen had been living. Displaying 
credentials indicating his connection with the Fidelity Re- 
porting Service of New York City, Geraty asked for any 
personal information the banker might have on Allen. He 
explained he was doing background checks on Nixon aides 
for the Republicans. 

Suspicious, the banker divulged nothing to his visitor. 



238 VICTOR LASKY 

Later he telephoned Nixon’s personal secretary, Rose 
Mary Woods, to find out what w^s going on. Miss Woods 
phoned back to report that no one had been authorized 
to conduct an investigation of Allen. 

John J. Caulfield, who was then chief of staff security 
for Nixon, checked into the matter. He discovered that the 
Fidelity Reporting Service, which Geraty said he repre- 
sented, was a “CIA outfit.” 

If anything, as Allen himself later noted, the CIA’s 
covert efforts to obtain information about him, whether for 
legitimate or political motives, was “a clear violation of 
the charter of the CIA.” But the Nixon high command 
decided not to expose the improper use of the CIA, as it 
was later explained, because any attack on the Johnson 
administration could move President Johnson to more 
enthusiastic support of Humphrey. 

“We went out of our way not to provoke Lyndon,” a 
top Nixon aide said, “even though we knew he had au- 
thorized some shady ventures against us.” 

The fact remains that improper investigations, wire- 
tapping, bugging, and physical surveillance of Republicans 
did take place on orders of President Johnson. All of 
which constituted a flagrant disregard of individual civil 
liberties, as well as a definite misuse of federal police 
agencies for partisan political advantage. 

Yet years later when the facts began to emerge, there 
was a profound disinterest on the part of the same media 
that went bananas over Watergate. As Professor Noam 
Chomsky, the authority on linguistics who was involved 
in most antiwar protests of the sixties, put it: “Illegal FBI 
operations [under Kennedy and Johnson] . . . while in- 
comparably more serious than anything charged in the 
Congressional Articles of Impeachment or other denuncia- 
tions of Nixon, aroused scant interest and little concern, 
specifically, in the organs of American liberalism that were 
so agitated over the latest tax trickery or tape erasure. 

“Ergo,” concluded Professor Chomsky, “Nixon’s de- 
fenders do have a case.” 

And Nicholas von Hoffman, who was not often accused 
of being a Nixon apologist, wrote: “In the months since his 
departure, his defense looks better. Half a dozen Con- 
gressional committees have brought forth volumes of in- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 239 

formation all adducing that the break-ins, the tapping, snoop- 
ing and harassment have been routine government ac- 
tivities for a generation at least.” 

Much of this had long been known in the halls of Con- 
gress. During the hearings of the Ervin Committee, for 
example, there was a determined effort to prevent infor- 
mation on Democratic precedents to Watergate from leak- 
ing out. And those investigative reporters, later to be im- 
mortalized by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, made 
no effort to dig out the material. 

For good reason, too, from their point of view. “Be- 
cause,” as William Satire noted, “the public, if possessed 
of the whole truth, might not have acted as the public 
opinion manipulators wanted them to. If the whole truth 
were let out, Mr. Nixon might have escaped. . . .” 

In his book At That Point in Time * Fred Thompson, 
the minority counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee, 
explained why even the Republicans on the committee did 
not call former FBI Deputy Directors Sullivan and De- 
Loach to testify about their first-hand knowledge of abuses 
of power under Democratic Presidents. “[Senator Lowell] 
Weicker was adamantly opposed,” wrote Thompson. 

He said it would look like an attempt to justify some 
of the actions of the Nixon Administration. [Senator 
Edward] Gurney reluctantly agreed. He didn’t want to 
further tarnish the image of the FBI. He also felt, as 
I think we all did, that the press would down- 
play the story and treat it as a Republican attempt to 
take the heat off of Nixon. The fact that FDR and 
LBJ had used the FBI for political purposes might be 
a significant story at another time, but not while 
Nixon was on the ropes. 

And so the greatest cover-up of all took place. All 
evidence concerning the incredible abuses of power under 
the Democrats was officially suppressed, lest there by any 
amelioration of the tremendous hatred being focused on 
Richard Nixon. 

Only later, long after Nixon was gone from center stage, 
♦(New York: Quadrangle, 1975), pp. 143-144. 



240 



VICTOR LASKY 



did the unpalatable facts about Democratic presidents be- 
gin to emerge. Not all of them, by any means, but enough 
to cause dismay among those who had been so tumultuous- 
ly aggrieved by Watergate. The sound and fury which had 
marked the Nixon years had died down to a whimper. 



SIXTEEN 



By the time Lyndon Johnson left office, his administration 
was under bitter attack by the media and its subsidiary or- 
ganizations. Thus in 1968 the journalism society Sigma 
Delta Chi had this to say: “The Credibility Gap, which 
has reached awesome proportions under the Johnson Ad- 
ministration, continued to be a grave handicap. Secrecy, 
lies, half-truths, deception — this was the daily fare.” 

In turn there were those who felt that the press had 
its own credibility problems. Douglas Cater, special as- 
sistant to President Johnson, suggested that too often news- 
men presumed an expertise they quite obviously didn’t 
have. 

“I’m concerned about the little demigods of TV who 
make an instant analysis of complicated events,” said 
Cater. “There should be bounds on what TV men do, so 
much of which is delivered with flippant abandon.” 

Cater, of course, was and is of the liberal persuasion. His 
remarks concerning “instant analysis” were generally over- 
looked at the time. A year or so later Vice President Spiro 
Agnew used the same phrase in condemning television 
coverage of presidential speeches — and all hell broke loose. 
The reaction ran true to form. The liberals claimed the re- 
marks augured — in the words of the International Press In- 
stitute in Zurich — “the most serious threat to the freedom 
of information in the Western world.” And commentators 
like Walter Cronkite agreed. 

But down in Texas the former President wondered out 
loud whether “Ted” Agnew had been politic in saying 
what he did. It wasn’t that Citizen Johnson disagreed with 
what was said. Shortly after the 1968 election he had 
sought to warn the Vice President-elect about the an- 
tagonistic nature of the media. 

“Young man,” he had told Agnew, “we have in this 



242 



VICTOR LASKY 



country two big television networks, NBC and CBS. We 
have two news magazines, Newsweek and Time. We have 
two wire services, AP and UPI. We have two pollsters, 
Gallup and Harris. We have two big newspapers — the 
Washington Post and The New York Times. They’re all so 
damned big they think they own the country. But, young 
man, don’t get any ideas about fighting. . . 

Well, Agnew got precisely that idea and came out swing- 
ing. Lyndon, of course, had also battled with the media 
and been bloodied in the process. He had even lost control of 
the Democratic Convention held that terrible year of 
1968. So fearful was he of angry outbursts from many of 
the delegates, particularly on Vietnam, that the President 
did not even put in an appearance at the Chicago Stock- 
yards. 

Another reason was the furies in the streets. Chicago 
just was not safe for the President. Thousands of antiwar 
youths rampaged through the Loop district, shouting ob- 
scene slogans and battling with the cops. The resultant 
scenes on national television were devastating. 

And no one was more aware of that than Hubert Hum- 
phrey as he was being nominated for the presidency of the 
United States. The exemplar of the “politics of joy” had 
been watching the nominating speeches in his hotel room 
on television. Just as Carl Stokes, the Black mayor of 
Cleveland, took the rostrum to make a seconding speech, 
the screen switched to filmed coverage of the violence in 
the streets. Blood showed up in living color. And Hubert 
was beside himself. 

As the ubiquitous Teddy White made notes, Humphrey 
denounced the television coverage as injurious to his 
chances. “I’m going to be President someday,” he said 
angrily. “I’m going to appoint the FCC — we’re going to 
look into all this!” 

The implication was, of course, that as President, Hum- 
phrey intended to wreak vengeance on the broadcast 
media. But the threat did not appear to arouse much con- 
cern on the part of people like White, who later was to 
write in detail about the hubris of the Nixon administra- 
tion. 

Needless to say, Humphrey never got the chance to 
meddle with the FCC. But his hurt remained. For a long 
time he felt the media had done him in. And, like Nixon, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 243 

he felt that some reporters had deliberately sought to “get” 
him. 

There could be little doubt that certain sections of the 
media had overplayed the violence in the streets. Lead- 
ing Democrats felt it was all deliberate. The final irony 
was that the convention coverage undoubtedly helped tilt 
the closely contested election to Nixon. 

Moreover, in covering the big stories, media people 
were not above taking the law into their hands. On Sep- 
tember 6, 1968, for example, the National Broadcasting 
Company acknowledged that some of its personnel had 
conducted illegal electronic surveillance on the Democrats 
at their recently concluded convention. 

According to an NBC statement, “overzealous and 
overeager employes, acting without authority” (sound fa- 
miliar?), had planted a microphone in a closed meeting of 
the Democratic platform committee at the Sheraton- 
Blackstone Hotel. 

Representative Hale Boggs, the committee chairman, 
disclosed that the microphone had been discovered under 
a cushion behind a curtain. He said that it “was attached 
to a cable leading directly to the recording facilities of the 
National Broadcasting Company in the same hotel.” 

A member of the committee told The New York Times 
that the supposed confidential proceedings had been in- 
terrupted for about fifteen or twenty minutes when the bug 
was discovered. “There was also some belief that an ear- 
lier meeting a day or two before had been bugged,” he 
added, “because the Chicago papers had such complete 
details of the closed meeting.” 

Boggs, meanwhile, announced he had requested an in- 
vestigation of the incident, noting that the laws must ap- 
ply equally to all men and that wiretapping, bugging, and 
eavesdropping, except in matters of national security or or- 
ganized crime, constituted direct violations of federal and 
state statutes. 

“The matter now is for determination by the appropriate 
Federal and state law enforcement agencies,” he added. 

In a telegram to Boggs NBC News President Reuven 
Frank said that NBC intended “to take stern disciplinary 
action against any personnel who acted improperly.” In a 
separate statement NBC claimed that no material obtained 
by the bugging was used in any way, that the network 



244 



VICTOR LASKY 



deeply regretted the episode which, it added, was not 
“condoned or encouraged by NBC News.” 

Several weeks later Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson 
reported in their column that NBC was about to be in- 
dicted and that one of its producers, Enid Roth, who had 
allegedly planted the bug, had been selected as the “scape- 
goat.” 

“This action,” the columnists added, “marks the first 
time in history that the Government has cracked down on 
the high-handed operations of the networks, which in the 
past have helped instigate riots, played a part in encour- 
aging trouble during the Little Rock school crisis, and 
slanted the news brazenly at the Chicago convention.” 
Pearson and Anderson also reported that Chairman 
Harley Staggers of the House Interstate Commerce Com- 
mittee had ordered an investigation of news slanting by 
the networks. Investigators had reported, among other 
things, that while Humphrey was delivering his accep- 
tance speech, an NBC director made sure that only un- 
flattering shots of the Vice President were used. 

And Senator Gale McGee had supplied the committee 
with information regarding an episode he personally wit- 
nessed on a Chicago street. The Wyoming Democrat said 
he saw a TV producer lining up several female protesters 
before his cameras. Not one of them had been hurt, 
menaced, or threatened. Yet when the producer gave the 
cue, they began to scream: “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” 
According to Pearson and Anderson, the networks also 
went out of their way to present Mayor Daley in the 
worst possible light. And, they reported, TV film clips of 
the Chicago riots, “some of them partially whipped up by 
TV producers,” were transmitted “all over the Communist 
and non-Communist world.” 

But the Staggers probe never got off the ground. 

Nor, as it turned out, was NBC indicted for breaking 
the law. What ultimately happened was that on March 20, 
1969, “scapegoat” Enid Roth was indicted and charged 
with two counts of “wilfully endeavoring to use an elec- 
tronic device to intercept oral communications.” In Feb- 
ruary 1970 Miss Roth pleaded no defense to one count of 
the indictment, was fined $1,000 as well as costs, and 
given a suspended sentence. More recently Miss Roth, still 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 245 

with NBC, turned up at both 1976 conventions as the 
television network’s on-the-air director. 

Needless to say, the lawbreakers in Watergate did not 
fare as well. 

But what is significant about all of this is that it went 
virtually ignored by the rest of the media. The press only 
became aroused about such lawbreaking during Water- 
gate. Then no network spent as much time, day in and 
day out, in exposing “the crime of the century” as did 
NBC. Hypocrisy obviously is not confined to politicians. 

Of course such “escapades” — as The New York Times 
described them — were nothing new. As an example the 
newspaper noted how at the Republican Convention in 
Miami Beach some weeks previously a delegate from 
Florida concealed a tape recorder at a closed meeting at 
which Richard Nixon addressed Southern delegates. The 
tape was turned over to the Miami Herald and the St. 
Petersburg Times , both of which published stories based 
on Nixon’s secretly recorded remarks. As it turned out, it 
was an enterprising Herald reporter who provided the 
delegate with the recording equipment. 

Jack Anderson himself was no stranger to electronic 
surveillance. In July 1958 he was caught in a hotel room 
with a congressional investigator spying on Bernard Gold- 
fine, the wealthy industrialist whose gift of a vicuna coat 
to Sherman Adams, a presidential assistant, became a 
major scandal of the Eisenhower administration. 

Anderson was mortified about being caught red-handed 
participating in the invasion of someone’s privacy. But his 
boss. Drew Pearson, shrugged off proposals from close 
friends that he fire Jack. Instead Pearson issued a state- 
ment which paraphrased Eisenhower’s defense of Adams. 
“Anderson might have been imprudent,” said Pearson, 
“but I need him.” 

Not as fortunate was Baron I. Shacklette, the chief in- 
vestigator of the House Special Subcommittee on Legisla- 
tive Oversight which had been looking into Goldfine’s 
peculiar links to the Eisenhower administration. As a re- 
sult of the Goldfine “bugging” Shacklette was forced to 
resign. Years later this background was ignored by Rep- 
resentative Wright Patman when the Texas Democrat hired 
Shacklette as his administrative assistant. Patman, inci- 



246 



VICTOR LASKY 



dentally, was among the first in Congress to become 
alarmed about the ramifications of Watergate. 

Perhaps because his improper activities had been di- 
rected against the likes of Goldfine, the media laid off 
Shacklette. At most the investigator suffered little more 
than momentary embarrassment. His caper was quickly 
forgotten. However, Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy paid 
a far greater price for conspiring to do exactly what 
Shacklette did. 

“Bugging” had long been considered a major tool of in- 
vestigative reporters. What Anderson did, therefore, was 
nothing new. And it didn’t hurt him a bit. In fact it helped 
in his extraordinary career. As he told Susan Sheehan of 
The New Yorker in 1972, “getting caught like that was 
the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me . . . 
but I later found out it didn’t hurt me at all. Everyone 
thought it proved we were getting just the kind of key- 
hole evidence they suspected we were getting.” 

In his book The Truman Presidency Cabell Phillips tells 
how reporters bugged a caucus of the Illinois delegation 
at the 1952 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The epi- 
sode took place on the afternoon of Sunday, July 20, when 
the delegation met in a private dining room of the Morri- 
son Hotel. 

As Phillips relates the story. 

The press had been excluded from the meeting. But 
the room had been “bugged” by an enterprising radio 
correspondent, and a group of other reporters, clus- 
tered behind a plastic room divider behind the speak- 
er’s table, overheard the entire proceedings. Even be- 
fore the caucus broke up, news wires across the 
country were cracking with speculations “on the high- 
est and most unimpeachable authority” that Adlai 
Stevenson’s name would be put in nomination and that 
he would not block it. 

Some of the nation’s better known political reporters of 
the time were in on the caper. They included Edward T. 
Folliard of the Washington Post, nationally syndicated 
columnist Doris Fleeson, and Charlie Cleveland of the 
Chicago Daily News. Their stories quoted Governor 
Stevenson as saying he was not being coy or indecisive; he 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 247 

just didn’t want to run for President. “I have no fitness — 
temperamentally, mentally or physically for the job,” 
Stevenson said. Without knowing that their words were 
being overheard, one delegate after another rose to say the 
governor had no choice but to run. And it soon became 
obvious that, regardless of his wishes, Stevenson’s name 
would go before the convention. 

Significantly, in describing the episode, Phillips used 
the adjective “enterprising.” There was no condemnation 
of media people for employing such tactics. If anything 
there was tacit approval. The same adjective was used by 
three British journalists in their book on the 1968 cam- 
paign in describing the Miami Herald reporter who per- 
suaded a Florida delegate covertly to tape a Nixon speech. 

The point of all this is that the media has long relied on 
Watergate-type tactics to obtain stories, and has rarely 
criticized itself for doing so. In fact spying has long been 
considered a virtue in the ranks of journalists. 

In the October 1973 issue of that sprightly, iconoclastic 
journal The Alternative , Richard Wheeler gave some per- 
sonal insights into the realities of so-called investigative 
reporting. “A couple of years ago,” wrote Wheeler, 

when I was a journalist in Montana, I attended a 
meeting under news management auspices in which 
our speaker was a Helena bureau chief freshly re- 
turned from a seminar at the American Press Institute 
on investigative reporting. 

“Our speaker 

discussed what he had learned in New York about in- 
vestigative reporting, which is often a euphemism for 
such deep digging tactics as espionage, bullying in- 
formation out of people, buying information — and 
electronic spying. Among the participants at the API 
seminar . . . were a couple of Life reporters who in- 
structed the group on the uses of electronic spying, 
and discussed pridefully their successful use of bugs 
to supply the material for several expose type stories 
in the magazine. 

Our speaker named several such stories, and noted 
that at the API seminar there had been little malaise 



248 



VICTOR LASKY 



about such illegal activity, because it helped newsmen 
fulfill their watchdog function. In fact, he reported, 
some had felt that bugs were a positive good, and a 
vital investigating tool. Now of course, all this is 
hearsay, but I have no reason to doubt the truth of it, 
especially when the speaker was waving an issue of 
Life containing, he said, a story acquired by illegal 
bugging. The response among my colleagues was 
equally enthused; indeed, I was nearly the only one 
there who felt that the end did not justify such ne- 
farious means. . . . 

So we are entitled to ask whether the press’ op- 
position to electronic spying is principled. If it is true 
that Life reporters bugged sources illegally, would 
the gentlemen of the press agree that such reporters 
should get the same twenty to thirty-five year sen- 
tences meted out to the Watergate conspirators? One 
suspects, after all, that such sentences are draconian, 
and that one does not normally spend a quarter or a 
third of a lifetime in prison for a first offense of 
breaking and entering. 

But has the press respectfully pleaded with Judge Si- 
rica for a more temperate sentence? The judge is a rea- 
sonable man, and would surely listen if a respectful re- 
quest for a better justice were directed to him by 
the press. But the press is in a vengeful mood, and is 
inclined to approve the Watergate justice. One wishes 
that each reporter who had similarly used bugs illegal- 
ly might spend an equal time behind bars. 

Of course, Richard Wheeler really doesn’t expect that 
ever to happen. The fact is, as we shall see, that despite all 
the so-called lessons of Watergate, there continue to be in- 
vasions of privacy by the media. And one of the worst 
offenders continues to be the Washington Post, which has 
long had an undistinguished record of such sleazy be- 
havior. A recent example was the assignment by Ben 
Bradlee of two reporters to snoop into the private life of 
Congressman Wayne Hays. Does the “right to know” in- 
clude the right to listen in on boudoir conversations? 
Granted that Hays was an old scoundrel, but even scoun- 
drels have rights. And where will it all end? The next 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 249 

thing might well be some enterprising reporter demanding 
to know more about Kay Graham’s private life, which the 
Post publisher insists is no one’s business but her own. 

It was the Washington Post, utilizing the services of a 
self-described political spy in the 1950s, which nearly 
came a cropper when it developed that the individual in 
question was nothing more than a semiliterate confidence 
man wily enough to rip off some of the nation’s leading 
liberals. Based on information provided by this confidence 
man, the Post had prepared twelve articles exposing the 
supposedly evil doings of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wis- 
consin. Fortunately for the Post someone had the presence 
of mind to decide almost at the last minute to check out 
the material. All of it proved to be phony.* 

But it wasn’t only the Post that willingly became in- 
volved in one of the sleaziest episodes in American po- 
litical history, one now conveniently forgotten by those 
who like to look back with horror. Some of the most 
powerful members of the liberal fraternity willingly con- 
doned the very use of confidential informants, dossiers, 
and political spies which they condemned in others. They 
felt that their purpose was above reproach. Any means, in 
their view, justified the end of destroying Joe McCarthy. 

Consider the names of some of the “biggies” involved 
in the plan to “get” McCarthy. They included Joseph L. 
Rauh, Jr., chairman of Americans for Democratic Action; 
Telford Taylor, Chairman of the National Committee for 
an Effective Congress; James Wechsler, editor of the New 
York Post ; Clayton Fritchey, more recently a columnist 
for the Washington Post; and the three top officials of 
the Washington Post at the time, Philip Graham, James 
Russell Wiggins, and Alfred Friendly. 

Also involved were Robert Eichholtz, a Washington 
lawyer and Rome representative of the Marshall Plan dur- 
ing the Truman administration; Paul Porter, partner in one 
of Washington’s more prestigious law firms, and a former 
high official of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations; 

♦The full and amazing story of how the con man got himself 
financed by the cream of American liberalism can be found in 
Wiliam F. Buckley’s article, “The Case of Paul A. Hughes, The 
Liberal Light that Failed,” National Review, Feb. 13, 1960, pp. 101— 
105. 



250 



VICTOR LASKY 



and Clark Clifford, another prestigious lawyer who had 
been special counsel and leading adviser to Democratic 
presidents. 

The story began in late 1953 when a recently dis- 
charged airman named Paul Hughes approached the staff 
director of Senator McCarthy’s Subcommittee on Investiga- 
tions with an eye-popping story of high treason at an 
American air force base in Saudi Arabia where he had 
been stationed. Staff director Francis Carr took notes, 
checked the story, found it to be a fabrication, and told 
Hughes to get lost. Hughes then took his wild yarn to 
the FBI, where his story was also checked, and he was 
shown the door. 

Switching stories, Hughes then approached General Cor- 
nelius Mara, who had been a White House aide and in- 
timate of President Truman. So overwhelmed was Mara 
with what Hughes told him that the general turned him 
over to Clayton Fritchey, then editor of the Democratic 
party’s official magazine Democratic Digest. According to 
the story Hughes now told, he was a covert agent of the 
McCarthy Committee. As such, he had come across in- 
formation that shocked him. And he was offering to re- 
port on the secret doings of the committee. An agreement 
was reached. Mara and Fritchey agreed to pay Hughes his 
“expenses.” And they also agreed to the aliases “Yale” 
and “Ewing” respectively. Aha, they must have felt, what 
a great way of getting the goods on Joe McCarthy! 

Hughes then sought out another mark, Joe Rauh, who 
was most receptive. Particularly after he heard Hughes’s 
shocking tale of the secret horrors perpetrated by Mc- 
Carthy. In fact Rauh’s appetite for anti-McCarthyiana 
was insatiable. He demanded more. And Hughes obliged, 
bringing in a ninety-four-page document full of “goodies.” 
Satisfied, Rauh placed Hughes on his private payroll. 

The document, as it was later disclosed in a courtroom, 
was a masterpiece. Reading it, Bill Buckley said it could 
easily have been “the work of a master psychiatrist seek- 
ing, simultaneously, to assuage and to aggravate a patient 
of unbalanced political outlook. The salve was there — for 
here was confirmation in abundance of the worst one could 
imagine about McCarthy; and also the galvanizer — here 
was a call to glory, a call for extraordinary exertions to 
destroy the monster McCarthy.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 251 

Consider the “revelations” which Hughes unfolded for 
Rauh’s “eyes only.” They concerned the secret and dark 
alliance between Eisenhower and McCarthy (their open 
hostility was, in effect, play-acting); marital problems de- 
veloping between Senator and Mrs. McCarthy; a clandes- 
tine White House meeting at which a smear campaign 
against the Democratic party was programmed; secret Mc- 
Carthy informers scattered about the White House, the 
CIA, the State Department, and elsewhere in the federal 
bureaucracy; McCarthy’s personal views on a host of mis- 
cellaneous subjects ranging from ethics to Drew Pear- 
son. The package included “documentation” consisting of 
notes, official communications, inter-office memoranda, and 
secret transcripts. Like the good con man he was, Hughes 
had worked hard to convince the mark. He could well 
have provided inspiration for the characters played by 
Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting. 

The Hughes memorandum made these recommenda- 
tions: 

... as McCarthy is presently violating some very se- 
rious military and civil laws, we should obtain pho- 
tographs and written evidence and witnesses to that 
effect. The result of evidence of this nature is not only 
elimination but also prosecution by the Federal Gov- 
ernment as well. You must make a decision relative 
to whether you want McCarthy removed permanently 
or not. If you do, it is relatively a simple legal 
matter. . . . 

There are many important military and civil officials 
in the Washington area alone willing to go to any 
extremes to remove McCarthyism from the political 
scene. Any coordination desired in this matter is 
relatively simple to obtain. Surely no obstacle exists 
in coordinated observation of me during my un- 
authorized procurement of classified material and my 
subsequent handling and disposition of same. Under 
coordinated but secure surveillance, observation will 
disclose that I surreptitiously procured [according to 
instructions from McCarthy] various amounts of clas- 
sified data; photographic evidence, controlled, will 
pinpoint McCarthy personnel receiving unauthorized 
classified material from me. 



252 



VICTOR LASKY 



Phone taps can be utilized, initially, to tie in all 
illegal incidents performed by me to specific McCarthy 
staff personnel. Phone taps can be further utilized for 
admissions by staff personnel of security violations 
and compromises of classified military projects. . . . 

. . . Being nice, too ethical, or squeamish, will ac- 
complish less than nothing where McCarthy is con- 
cerned. ... 

Joe Rauh bought all these Watergate-type recommenda- 
tions to the tune of 8,500 of his own dollars. He made an 
arrangement whereby Hughes was to report to him directly 
and regularly on the activities of McCarthy and his In- 
vestigations Committee. In so doing, Rauh placed no 
limits on what Hughes was to do in obtaining his secret 
information — including illegal phone taps. 

Of course Rauh had long been bitterly opposed to such 
anti-civil libertarian tactics when they were used against 
liberals or even confirmed subversives. In fact in the May 
1950 issue of The Progressive he had insisted, “Let us do 
away with confidential informants, dossiers, political spies. 
. . . No one can guess where this process of informing will 
end/’ 

In Rauh’s case the process of informing ended up in a 
federal courtroom in Manhattan. Two years after he had 
hired Paul Hughes, Rauh’s use of confidential informants, 
dossiers, and political spies led a jury of his peers to refuse 
to take his word over that of a self-confessed liar and con- 
fidence man. 

The case involved allegations of perjury on Hughes’s 
part. One count, for example, contended that Hughes had 
lied when he told a grand jury that Rauh had known all 
along that he was a phony. In other words Hughes had 
contended that Rauh was a knave. 

Thus when he took the witness stand, Rauh in effect was 
forced to argue that, no, he was not a knave, but a fool. 
Despite all the sophistication he had picked up in many 
years of political involvement, he had not known he was 
being taken, he insisted. The jury chose not to believe him. 

At any rate it was Rauh’s contention that the reason he 
had hired Hughes was to seek to develop a legal case 
against McCarthy, not to look for prurient details of the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 253 

senator’s personal affairs. But as it turned out under ques- 
tioning, Rauh never did advise Hughes to limit his reports 
only to evidence of legal wrongdoing. And Alfred Friend- 
ly, managing editor of the Washington Post , likewise found 
it difficult to explain why he had written down numerous 
notes about McCarthy which had absolutely nothing to do 
with illegal activities. Some of them were prurient indeed. 

Also taking the line that his interest in McCarthy was 
limited was that paragon of anti-McCarthyism, Clayton 
Fritchey. Then why, asked the judge, was he so interested 
in Hughes’s claim that a McCarthy sympathizer worked on 
the Louisville Courier-Journal? “What did that ” the judge 
went on, “have to do with illegal activities?” Fritchey’s re- 
sponse: “It happened — a friend of mine happened to be a 
publisher of the Courier-Journal. . . 

Under questioning by the defense counsel, Rauh testified 
that Hughes had informed him that McCarthy’s spy on 
the New York Post was — would you believe? — the Post's 
cooking editor. 

counsel: Did you call Mr. Wechsler, editor of the Post , 
and tell him? 
rauh: Yes, sir. 

counsel: You didn’t feel that the cooking editor was go- 
ing to slant any recipes in McCarthy’s favor, did you? 
rauh: That wasn’t the purpose. That wouldn’t have been 
the purpose to have somebody there. 
counsel: What was the purpose of McCarthy having a 
spy as the cooking editor? 

rauh: Because a cooking editor like anybody else has ac- 
cess to all the records, files and clips and other matters 
on the paper and to all the discussion. It doesn’t matter 
who the person is. I didn’t feel he should have anybody 
on the paper. 

the court (interrupting): You don’t believe in having 
spies? 

rauh: No, sir. 

counsel: Unless they are your own? 
rauh: Unless you are trying to uncover illegal activity, 
which I was trying to do. 

counsel: You didn’t think McCarthy was trying to un- 
cover illegal activity? 



254 



VICTOR LASKY 



rauh: No, I didn’t. 

counsel: You thought you were the only one trying to do 
that? 

rauh: I thought the Washington Post and I were the Qnly 
ones trying to do that. 

Of course when it came to loyalty risks holding jobs in the 
U.S. government, Joe Rauh had other views. 

The court was also interested in why, if Hughes’s em- 
ployers were so concerned about McCarthy’s illegalities, 
they did not turn to the Justice Department and, par- 
ticularly, Attorney General Herbert Brownell. For exam- 
ple the judge asked General Mara, “Did you explain to 
Mr. Hughes why you called in Mr. Fritchey and, let’s say, 
not Mr. Brownell?” The general seemed a bit shaken. 
“I don’t quite — well,” he mumbled, “the only reason I 
called in Mr. Fritchey was, I felt he had newspaper back- 
ground, that he could analyze this thing. . . .” 

Under questioning Fritchey was asked if he recalled 
“whether Hughes at any time expressed any opinions which 
caused you seriously to doubt his ethics or morality?” 
“No,” he replied, “not one single thing, no.” 

Whereupon there was inserted into the record a memo- 
randum which Hughes had submitted to Fritchey and later 
Rauh. Excerpts from the document, dated December 1953, 
are as follows: 

Phone taps can be utilized [against McCarthy]. . . . 
Don’t discount the tremendous value in just bargain- 
ing power of recorded phone discussions. ... A pro- 
gram of this type, although not nice, can result in 
harm to no one except [McCarthy]. ... As mentioned 
earlier, being nice, too ethical or squeamish, will ac- 
complish less than nothing, where McCarthy is con- 
cerned. McCarthy has stated many times, “Ethics 
went out the window with buttoned shoes.” So there- 
fore I don’t see the necessity for us to send a boy to 
do a man’s work. If both federal and civil law en- 
forcement agencies use the same unethical procedures 
to bring to justice criminals, are we not justified in 
using similar methods to expose [McCarthy] . . . ? 
It is most easy to prove and document [McCarthy’s 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



255 



guilt] ... by relaxing somewhat on ethics. This per- 
haps is probably what I’m best suited for. . . . 

Thus twenty years before Watergate several of Amer- 
ica’s leading liberals agreed to a plan in which wiretapping 
was proposed as a means of dealing with a hated political 
enemy. Not only that, they shelled out cold cash to the 
author of a memorandum advocating numerous outright 
illegalities. These were the same liberals who would so 
vociferously castigate the Nixon administration. 

At any rate Paul Hughes began to submit numerous re- 
ports about the evil doings of McCarthy and his gang. But 
the report which really had everyone shook up was the 
claim by Hughes that Joe and his staff had amassed a cache 
of pistols, Lugers, and submachine guns in the basement 
of the Senate Office Building. The implication was ob- 
vious. The McCarthyites were planning a putsch aimed at 
seizing the government! 

By this time the Washington Post was preparing a series 
of articles based on the exclusive revelations provided by 
the paid informer. When twelve pieces were completed 
under tight security, someone in the Post’s hierarchy thought 
it would be wise to check out some of the sensational ma- 
terial. After checking some of the sources of the anti- 
McCarthyiana, reporter Murray Marder quickly de- 
termined that the stories, already in type, were phonies. 
Whereupon the series was killed. 

And then silence! 

Not one word of how it had been “taken in” by an ad- 
venturer was published in the Post , even though it had ex- 
clusive access to all the details. And Joe Rauh failed to take 
the matter to the authorities, even though he had been ripped 
off for a considerable sum by a phony who went around 
flashing false credentials as a Senate investigator, in itself 
an illegal act. That present-day moralist, Clayton Fritchey, 
said nary a word to the police about a man who subse- 
quently sought to blackmail him. Also saying nothing to 
anyone in authority was General Mara, to whom Hughes 
had given a bad check. 

What these liberal worthies wanted above all else was to 
forget their embarrassing, if not illegal, transgressions. But 
it was not to be. When Hughes once again tried to con the 



256 



VICTOR LASKY 



FBI, he was hauled before a grand jury. Whereupon he 
was indicted on six counts of alleged perjury. Two counts 
concerned Hughes’s contention that Rauh was aware that 
his claim to being a McCarthy investigator was false, and 
that his reports on McCarthy’s doings were doctored. 

On February 3, 1956, following a jury trial, Hughes was 
acquitted. Two years later the government recommended 
that Hughes not be retried. Its reason: “During the trial 
the credibility of the major Government witnesses was 
severely attacked by its defense. . . . There is no reason to 
believe that a second jury would be any less receptive to 
the contentions made by the defense.” In other words, ac- 
cording to the government, the credibility of such wit- 
nesses as Joe Rauh, Clay Fritchey, and A1 Friendly left 
much to be desired. 

When the National Review, shortly after the conclusion 
of the Hughes trial, chided liberal publicists for not com- 
menting on the case, Richard Rovere wrote editor Buck- 
ley, saying, “I agree with you that the Hughes case is full 
of import. ... I know that I shall deal with the Hughes 
case in (my forthcoming book.)” The book turned out to 
be a study of Senator McCarthy; but it did not contain a 
single reference to Hughes. 

Eventually the Washington Post did publish a brief, self- 
serving editorial. And that was all. Forgetting its own deep 
involvement with a secret informer, the Post continued to 
condemn such practices when used by anti-Communist 
“witch-hunters.” When Watergate broke, however, the Post 
again sought out secret informers which it described as “re- 
liable sources. One or a combination of those sources will 
forever be known as “Deep Throat.” 

Of course the Post has long believed in the right to pri- 
vacy for everyone but Richard Nixon. Thus it was the 
first American newspaper to publish a story involving 
Henry Kissinger’s private remarks concerning his former 
employer and other prominent figures. 

All this took place at a state dinner held in Kissinger’s hon- 
or in Ottawa in October of 1975. Talking animatedly, the 
Secretary of State came up with some startling (for Ca- 
nadians) views concerning his former leader. According 
to Henry, Nixon was an “odd, artificial and unpleasant 
man.” At the same time he conceded that Nixon was “one 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 257 

of our better Presidents. . . . He was very decisive in his 
own way. He went to the heart of the problem.” 

On and on he prattled, little knowing that his seemingly 
private comments were being transmitted by a microphone 
to newsmen gathered elsewhere. Two days later the Secre- 
tary’s babblings were published on the front page of the 
Washington Post. 

Most everyone in the media enjoyed the story. Only one 
journalist worried aloud about its import. In a radio com- 
mentary Hugh Sidey of Time observed, “It seems that 
everybody but we journalists apologized. ... As one of 
the trade, I am disturbed that there was not someone 
somewhere who said, wait, this is not only ungentlemanly 
but decidedly unfair. Kissinger should have been told what 
was happening. . . . The pursuit of the facts needs to be re- 
lentless, but if all the rules of decent conduct are ignored 
along the way, we may find we have defeated ourselves.” 
A flabbergasted Kissinger meanwhile tried to make 
amends by telephoning his “profuse apologies” to Nixon. 
The Secretary claimed he had been quoted out of context 
— the usual excuse for such faux pas. But both he and 
Nixon knew better. For Henry had been saying pretty 
much the same things elsewhere, but without benefit of a 
prying media. And reports of these indiscretions had 
reached/San Clemente. 

None of which has endeared Kissinger to the man who 
made the Secretary what he is today. And it must have 
given Gerald Ford some cause for alarm. What, the Presi- 
dent must have thought, will Henry be saying about me 
when he no longer needs me? 

During the Nixon years Kissinger went out of his way 
to butter up the President. His praise of Nixon was un- 
stinted. In private conversations he described the President 
as “a genius whose understanding of foreign policy is un- 
paralleled.” At the same time (at least to this writer) he 
went out of his way to attack John F. Kennedy as a 
“dilettante,” whose “opening to the left” had led the nation 
into deep trouble “from which we have yet to recover.” 

Of course in his sotto voce comments on Nixon, Kissin- 
ger was seeking to placate his liberal friends, whose hatred 
of the former President knew no bounds. But, in so doing, 
the Secretary made a serious mistake. For the word soon 
was out that no longer would Nixon’s friends seek to pro- 



258 



VICTOR LASKY 



tect him from allegations that it was he who helped initiate 
the wiretapping of numerous persons, including former 
aides, one of whom, Morton Halperin, was suing him. 

Indeed as the facts began to be assembled, it became 
increasingly obvious that it was largely because of Kissin- 
ger’s almost hysterical preoccupation with plugging “leaks” 
of national security information that the secret “plumbers” 
unit was established at the White House. 

And out of the plumbers’ activities came Watergate. 



SEVENTEEN 



Probably the most extraordinary aspect of Watergate was 
the fact that so many outsiders — including officials of the 
Democratic National Committee — were among those who 
had knowledge of the break-in many weeks before it oc- 
curred. Yet some of these individuals later conceded that 
they did nothing to prevent the episode. Indeed it would 
appear that some of them welcomed it. 

Evidence that the victims of the break-in had been 
warned of what was being planned was developed by the 
minority staff of the Senate Watergate Committee. Sworn 
testimony was taken in executive sessions from three of- 
ficials of the Democratic National Committee, columnist 
Jack Anderson, and the two individuals who had given 
the warning: A. J. Woolston-Smith, a New York private 
investigator, and William F. Haddad, a former official of 
the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. 

From the beginning these investigators, headed by mi- 
nority counsel Fred Thompson, found themselves being 
hampered by witnesses who contradicted themselves and 
each other, had incredible lapses of memory, and who mis- 
placed or lost important documents. As Thompson was 
later to put it, “An obvious effort had been made to con- 
ceal the facts.” But, he added, he had no doubt that “several 
people, including some at the Democratic headquarters, 
had advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in on June 
17 , 1972 .” 

Because they were unable to find a “smoking gun” in 
anyone’s hands, as Thompson put it, and because of the 
press of Watergate business, “we knew that we could not 
justify the expenditure of any more time, effort and money 
on a matter that, even if our hunches turned out to be 
true, might add up to a finding of historical interest only. 
We realized that we had played out the string, and we let 



260 



VICTOR LASKY 



the matter drop, reluctantly, with a gnawing feeling in our 
stomachs.” 

Nevertheless since nearly all the information came from 
testimony given under oath, a thoroughly documented sum- 
mary was prepared and a major effort was made to include 
it in the committee’s final report. But, as expected, Senator 
Ervin agreed with the majority staff’s opinion that the Re- 
publican effort was “too speculative,” and it was never 
published. 

According to the transcripts of the once-secret testi- 
mony, among the first to be warned of the forthcoming 
break-in was none other than Lawrence F. O’Brien, the 
Democratic national chairman who was the major target 
of the caper. One of O’Brien’s old friends from the days 
of Camelot, William Haddad, had written him a letter, say- 
ing he had been hearing “some very disturbing stories about 
GOP sophisticated surveillance techniques now being used 
for campaign purposes and of an interesting group here 
in New York where some of this ‘intelligence’ activity is 
centered.” 

Haddad said that the stories had come to him “from a 
counter-wiretapper who helped me once in a very difficult 
situation in Michigan.” Haddad thought the information he 
had available was so important that it might be wise for 
O’Brien to “have someone call me so you can get the info 
first hand and take whatever actions you deem necessary.” 

O’Brien immediately instructed the DNC’s director of 
communications, John Stewart, to follow up on the matter. 
Stewart flew to New York for an April 26, 1972, meeting 
at Haddad’s office. The meeting was attended by Stewart, 
Haddad, Woolston-Smith, and Ben Winter, the vice presi- 
dent of a New York bank. Haddad later testified that Win- 
ter, a friend, happened to be in his office and that he in- 
vited the banker to sit in on the meeting “to hear some- 
thing fascinating.” 

It was at this meeting that Haddad suggested that “little 
Cuba in Miami” was involved in the planned bugging of the 
office of the Democratic National Committee and that 
what the Republicans were after was evidence that the 
Democrats were being subsidized by Castro’s Cuba. Ac- 
cording to Haddad’s testimony, the discussion centered on 
ways in which the funding of the espionage operation 
might be traced. Also discussed was a Republican or- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 261 

ganization in New York called the November Group that 
had some connection with someone named G. Gordon 
Liddy. The name of Attorney General Mitchell was men- 
tioned. 

Woolston-Smith’s sworn testimony also indicated that 
these were among the matters discussed in Haddad’s office. 
And he added that James McCord, who participated in the 
Watergate burglary, had been mentioned at the meeting. 
According to Woolston-Smith, John Stewart was “very in- 
terested” in the Cuban money angle. 

For Thompson’s investigators, Mike Madigan and 
Howard Liebengood, all this testimony was a “bombshell.” 
For it meant that six weeks before the Watergate burglars 
were apprehended, Haddad knew that Cuban-Americans 
would be involved and that they would be looking for 
evidence that Castro was helping subsidize the DNC. 

And who was Woolston-Smith? A short, roundfaced, 
balding man, he described himself as a “security consul- 
tant” to a firm calling itself the Science Security Associates, 
Inc., with offices at 441 Lexington Avenue in New York 
City. A one-time British intelligence agent — he said he 
carried a New Zealand passport — Wollston-Smith’s immigra- 
tion status was that of a permanent resident of the United 
States. Following the Bay of Pigs, he testified, his offices 
in New York were used by the CIA as a clearinghouse for 
those returning from the aborted invasion. Woolston-Smith 
said his contacts with what he described as the “intelligence 
community” were excellent. Which, he indicated, was how 
he first heard rumors about what later became known as 
Watergate. 

Haddad’s banker friend, Ben Winter, testified that Wool- 
ston-Smith had displayed a “sophisticated bug” at the April 
26 meeting and had handed it to both Stewart and Had- 
dad. Winter thought that the investigator’s information was 
based on hard evidence obtained through surveillance, 
rather than theory. During his interview Woolston-Smith 
insisted that he did only “defensive wiretapping,” i.e., detec- 
tion of bugging. The bug he exhibited at the meeting, he 
said, was only a fake model intended to show the type of 
equipment available in the market. But he did confirm that 
he had visited the building in which the November Group 
was located, but insisted that he had remained in the 
hallway and never entered the suite. 



262 



VICTOR LASKY 



Two days after the April 26 meeting Haddad wrote a 
letter to Stewart, saying that Woolston-Smith had “good 
information” and that, as a former investigative reporter, 
it was his judgment “that the story is true and explosive.” 
Seeming to respond to a question from Stewart about 
whether the private detective wanted to be paid for con- 
tinuing his investigation, Haddad wrote that Woolston- 
Smith “did want to cover expenses.” Haddad added: “In- 
stead of pursuing this with money, I decided to see what a 
good investigative reporting operation could do with it 
now. So I went ahead along these lines. If they draw a 
blank, I’ll be back to you on how to proceed, and I’ll keep 
you informed.” 

At the same time, Haddad told the Senate investigators, 
he transmitted all the material in his file to Jack Anderson 
with a covering letter. But, he said, he did not keep any 
copies of either the material or the letter. 

As Thompson later said, “We wondered what there was 
that was ‘true and explosive,’ as Haddad had put it in his 
letter. Whatever it was, it was in the files sent to Ander- 
son, and they did not want us to know its contents.” 

Having been warned that there were plans afoot to bug 
their offices, did the Democrats notify the police, have 
their premises “swept” for bugs, hire guards, or even ask 
the staff to take precautions? Not on your life. Stanley 
L. Griegg, then deputy chairman of the DNC, said that 
even though John Stewart had told him that Woolston- 
Smith had warned there might be electronic surveillance 
and possibly breaking and entering, he felt that the in- 
formation was too fragmentary. Besides, he told Stewart, 
the DNC “didn’t have the finances for an elaborate se- 
curity program.” 

Woolston-Smith however was astonished that, despite his 
repeated warnings, the Democrats had done nothing to se- 
cure their headquarters. “I don’t think I could have spelled 
it out more,” he said. “It’s no use asking me why they did 
nothing. It’s all beyond me.” 

“In retrospect,” said Larry O’Brien, whose private office 
and telephone had been the targets of the break-ins, “we 
should have paid more attention to it, but my recollection 
was that there were no specifics or clear lines. I don’t re- 
call I got any recommendation about what to do about it, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 263 

and if there was one, the question was how did we pay for 
it?” 

Thus great pains were taken to create the impression 
that the Democrats had not taken the warnings 
seriously. And no one appears to have asked why they did 
not at least tip off the authorities of what they had been 
told. The fact is they already knew their offices had been 
broken into. During the first week of May, according to 
Griegg’s testimony, unknown burglars had removed var- 
ious documents and checks. And on another occasion 
there had been an unsuccessful effort to force the locks. 
Under these circumstances the Democrats’ total inaction 
over the bugging warning appears strange indeed. Though 
no one admitted it, the minority investigators did think it 
conceivable that a search had been made for bugs and 
that one had been found in O’Brien’s office. The June 17 
break-in, which resulted in the apprehension of the Water- 
gate burglars, was made largely because that bug was not 
functioning properly. The feeling was that the O’Brien bug 
may not have died a natural death. 

In his testimony Woolston-Smith said that the DNC’s 
interest in his information continued right up to the time 
of the June 17 break-in. He said that he and Stewart talked 
on the phone several times a week, denying that Stewart’s 
interest had waned at any time. “It was hot right up until 
the end and after the end.” Their last pre-Watergate dis- 
cussion was, as Woolston-Smith later recalled, “along the 
lines of ‘something is about to happen.’ ” 

And happen it did on a muggy Saturday in mid-June 
when five men wearing business suits and surgical gloves, 
carrying $100 bills and a walkie-talkie, were arrested in 
the middle of the night. Later that day Stewart tried to 
reach Woolston-Smith, but the investigator was away for 
the weekend. Stewart finally reached him on Monday, 
June 19. According to Woolston-Smith, Stewart was 
“elated.” Asked what he was elated about, the private de- 
tective said, “Elated that we had more or less called it the 
way it happened.” 

Asked to elaborate further, Woolston-Smith said, “This 
enthusiasm seemed to have been, well, we may not have 
this election, but boy, we have got them in real great 
position.” He said this was because Stewart thought there 



264 



VICTOR LASKY 



was definite involvement in the break-in of the Com- 
mittee to Re-elect the President (CRP). Woolston-Smith 
said that the DNC. people were “expecting the newspapers 
to develop it.” 

Stewart painted a very different picture. According to 
his testimony, his contact with Woolston-Smith was ex- 
tremely limited and the investigator’s information was “so 
unsubstantiated that it certainly was not the basis for action 
on our part.” He indicated that he had only one telephone 
conversation with him before Watergate. At first he could 
not recall any meeting with him prior to June 17. Only 
when he was told that others had testified he had met 
with Haddad, Woolston-Smith, and Winter would Stewart 
admit that it was possible. Stewart also had difficulty re- 
calling the letter Haddad had sent him dated April 28, two 
days after the New York meeting. Though the letter had 
described Woolston-Smith’s story as “true and explosive,” 
Stewart said he had no recollection of having seen it, 
though that too was possible. But he did say that following 
the Watergate arrests, he had recalled Woolston-Smith’s 
warning and gave him a call to ask whether he had any 
additional information. But, according to Stewart, Wool- 
ston-Smith said he knew nothing more. 

It was obvious to Thompson and his investigators that 
someone wasn’t telling the truth. While Haddad and Wool- 
ston-Smith often gave the impression of being fuzzy and 
less than candid in their testimony, Stewart seemed to go 
to unusual lengths to play down his meetings and con- 
versations with Haddad and Woolston-Smith. So lacking 
in credibility was Stewart’s testimony that his inquisitors 
wondered what he was afraid of. Would the admission 
that the Democratic high command had taken Woolston- 
Smith’s warning seriously have been so damaging? 

Apparently it would. For if the DNC had taken the 
warning seriously, it would have been difficult to explain 
why no obvious defensive measures had been taken. 
Woolston-Smith did not accept the idea that there was no 
money available for security. He noted that field force 
meters to detect bugs could have been purchased at little 
cost. And he pointed out that while the DNC was crying 
poverty, Larry O’Brien was hitting the committee for 
numerous “perks,” including a round-the-clock chauffeured 
limousine. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 265 

Woolston-Smith’s conclusion, as he told Senate inves- 
tigators, was that the DNC had a plan to let the break-in 
and bugging take place and then capitalize on it. 

Whether that was indeed the plan has never been fully 
established. What is intriguing, though, is the speed with 
which the DNC proceeded to file a $1 million lawsuit 
against the Committee to Re-elect the President. On the 
Tuesday following the weekend arrests, Larry O’Brien an- 
nounced the suit which, he said, was an attempt to force 
the issue into examination in U.S. District Court. 

Thompson and his staff finally were forced to terminate 
their investigation of the prior-knowledge angle before they 
could obtain answers to some perplexing questions. Just 
how did Haddad and Woolston-Smith manage to amass 
such accurate information on the Watergate break-in in ad- 
vance? Did they have access to information obtained by 
electronic surveillance? Or was there a double agent within 
the ranks of the Watergate burglars? 

Suspicions had fallen on James McCord, who had bun- 
gled the break-in, kept in touch with the CIA, confessed 
to federal Judge John Sirica, and ended up serving very 
little time in jail. McCord’s name had come up at the 
April 26 meeting in Haddad’s office. While looking into 
the November Group, Woolston-Smith had learned that 
McCord had come up from Washington to check whether, 
as suspected, the group’s phones were being tapped. The 
lines most definitely had been tampered with. On one 
occasion an office conversation on the WATS line was in- 
terrupted by an unknown party who began cursing out 
Nixon as a “murderer” of women and children in Viet- 
nam. 

It wasn’t too long before Woolston-Smith learned that 
McCord, a former FBI agent as well as a CIA employee, 
considered himself to be “a bit of a wireman” — in other 
words, something of an expert in electronic surveillance. 
And the investigator also learned that McCord was buy- 
ing all sorts of electronic equipment, paying for it with 
$100 bills and, in one case, leaving his CRP calling card. 
The word soon got out in the inbred world of intelligence 
operatives that the security chief for the Nixon campaign 
effort was up to something. 

But why did Woolston-Smith become interested in the 
November Group in the first place? According to his testi- 



266 



VICTOR LASKY 



mony, the private eye first began probing into its affairs in 
December 1971. As it turned out, the November Group 
was a legitimate enterprise set up by the Nixon reelection 
campaign to handle its newspaper advertising and television 
commercials. Yet Woolston-Smith became so suspicious of 
what he thought it was doing that he personally cased its 
premises. He testified, however, that he did this from the 
hallway, never going inside. But why? And why, as it 
later developed, did the CIA keep a dossier on Woolston- 
Smith? 

Jack Anderson, who later informed investigators he had 
misplaced the letter containing the Haddad file on the 
bugging plans, reported that he was not able to develop 
any further information on the basis of what Haddad 
had provided. The columnist recalled receiving a rather 
“sloppy” one-page letter (“kind of dashed off hurriedly”) 
from Haddad sometime in April 1972, advising that the 
November Group was going to wiretap the Democratic 
National Committee. He said he had run into a stone wall 
and just dropped the matter. For one thing he looked into 
the November Group and found it to be perfectly above 
board. However, as he disclosed in his column, he subse- 
quently learned that McCord, while in New York check- 
ing out the group’s phones, had “made the mistake of 
confiding his plans to bug the Democrats to old FBI 
friends. The word spread through the investigative com- 
munity, reaching us in Washington two months before 
the celebrated Watergate break-in.” 

By coincidence Anderson was a friend of one of the 
Miamians apprehended at the Watergate — Frank Sturgis, 
a non-Cuban soldier of fortune who had connections with 
the CIA and had participated in anti-Castro activities. It 
was through Sturgis that Anderson became knowledgeable 
about Cuban underground affairs. For example he had once 
met Bernard Barker, later the team leader of the break-in, 
through Sturgis. They had spoken of a mysterious “Edu- 
ardo,” their CIA superior during the Bay of Pigs, and 
only after Watergate did Anderson realize they were speak- 
ing of E. Howard Hunt. 

In an article in the July 22, 1973, issue of Parade mag- 
azine, thirteen months after the Watergate break-in, An- 
derson made what appeared to Thompson’s investigators 
to be an amazing revelation. The columnist reported that 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 267 

on June 16, 1972, less then twenty-four hours before the 
break-in, he had “run into” Sturgis at Washington’s Na- 
tional Airport. Anderson wrote that he was surprised to see 
his old friend because usually the Miamian would call him 
before he came to Washington. Though he was in a hurry 
to catch a plane for Cleveland, Anderson stopped to chat. 
He asked Sturgis what he was doing in Washington. “Pri- 
vate business,” replied Sturgis, who then introduced him to 
Virgilio Gonzalez, the Cuban locksmith who was to pick 
the Watergate locks the next day. 

Two days later Anderson learned the nature of Sturgis’s 
“private business.” The front pages carried the story of 
the Watergate arrests. Anderson then paid a visit to the 
District of Columbia jail to see Sturgis. In fact he got 
there before the jailers even had Sturgis’s correct name. 
Sturgis had been booked under an alias, Anderson testified, 
and he had a hard time finding him. The columnist said he 
found his old friend “tight lipped,” saying only that the 
Watergate project had been part of the struggle against 
Castro. In return for their services, Sturgis said he and his 
fellow burglars had been promised, among other things, 
that some Cuban refugees living in Europe would be 
permitted to resettle in Miami. After this visit Anderson 
sought to have Sturgis released to his custody, but the 
Justice Department was adamantly opposed. 

“My court appearance in Sturgis’ behalf also disturbed 
the Democrats,” wrote Anderson. “After I printed details 
of Larry O’Brien’s expense accounts, the Democrats issued 
a statement suggesting I had received information stolen 
from their offices by the Waterbuggers. I had managed, 
as usual, to gain the enmity of both political parties.” 

According to Thompson, there were other unanswered 
questions concerning who else may have had prior knowl- 
edge of the Watergate break-in. But under the press of a 
deadline and handicapped by representing a minority party 
at the mercy of an antagonistic majority, Thompson’s small 
staff didn’t have the time or the resources to pursue every 
lead or to force the reconciliation of every contradiction. 
And contradictions there were aplenty. 

Probably the most intriguing area of investigation con- 
ducted by Thompson under the aegis of Senator Howard 
Baker, vice chairman of the Watergate Committee, had to 
do with exactly what the CIA knew — and when. The in- 



268 



VICTOR LASKY 



vestigation came up with no hard answers, only more ques- 
tions, the main reason being the obvious unwillingness of 
the CIA to come clean on what it knew. And apparently 
the Agency knew plenty. 

That the White House wasn’t always pleased with the 
CIA was established in testimony. Indeed one witness, 
David Young, told how his boss Kissinger would some- 
times write, “This is a piece of crap,” across CIA estimates 
and return them to Langley. When Young and Egil Krogh 
were assigned to establish the “plumbers” — the White 
House task force formed to plug national security leaks — 
the CIA realized it had a competitor, and subsequently 
there were a number of connections between the CIA and 
the plumbers. Which raised the question whether the CIA 
had sabotaged the Watergate break-in in order to weaken 
the White House and strengthen the Agency. After all 
the CIA had done jobs like that before. 

Consider what happened at the home of James McCord 
shortly after he and the other Watergate burglars had 
been apprehended. His wife began burning his papers. 
Present at the time was a CIA operative named Lee R. 
Pennington, Jr. Though Pennington later testified that his 
presence had been strictly coincidental. Baker flatly charged 
that Pennington had “destroyed documents which might 
show a link between McCord and the CIA.” But Mc- 
Cord’s connection with the Agency was not exactly a 
secret. So why the burning of the documents? The only 
conceivable answer was that they might have established a 
CIA relationship with McCord at the time of the break-in. 

But even more startling was the frenzied effort by the 
CIA to mislead the FBI about the incident; when the Bu- 
reau inquired about a “Pennington” in August 1972, the 
CIA furnished information about a former employee with a 
similar name who — as Baker later noted — “was obviously 
not the man the FBI was interested in.” If ever there was 
an effort to obstruct justice, this was it. Information about 
the “real” Pennington was provided to Watergate probers 
in February 1974, a year and a half later, only after a low- 
echelon CIA employee protested an order to remove the 
material from the Agency’s Watergate files to prevent its 
disclosure. The unnamed “personnel security officer #1” 
informed his superiors, according to closed-door testimony, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 269 

that he would not be party to the destruction of the 
Pennington documents. 

Another murky episode was the destruction of tape re- 
cordings of certain room and telephone conversations on 
orders of Richard Helms just before he departed as CIA 
director to become ambassador to Iran. This was ap- 
proximately a week after Helms had received a letter from 
Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield requesting that the 
Agency safeguard all evidence pertaining to Watergate. 
Some of the lost tapes were phone conversations with 
President Nixon, H. R. Haldeman, and John Ehrlich- 
man. Helms later insisted that none of the conversations 
had anything to do with Watergate. Moreover he said 
- that the tape wipeout was customary whenever a new 
director took over. But according to Baker’s final report, 
two facts seem clear: “First, the only destruction for which 
the CIA has any record was on January 21, 1972, when 
tapes for 1964 and 1965 were destroyed (there are no 
records of periodic destruction); and secondly, never be- 
fore had there been a destruction of all existing tapes.” 
Which, in effect, raised questions concerning Helms’s pre- 
cipitate behavior which, according to Baker, were never 
resolved. 

A third area of focus in the Baker report was the re- 
lationship of E. Howard Hunt with the CIA. There can be 
little doubt that the relationship was extensive. A long- 
time employee who retired from the Agency in 1970, Hunt 
—at White House request — was given full CIA cooperation 
in the Daniel Ellsberg incident. Thus, among other things, 
the Agency assigned its psychiatrists to assemble a “pro- 
file” of the intense young intellectual who had purloined 
the Pentagon Papers and then released them to the press. 

The Baker report noted the CIA assistance to Hunt— 
which included the furnishing of false driver’s licenses and 
identification papers, pocket litter, a voice changer, wig, 
fake glasses, a Uher recorder disguised in a typewriter 

case, a camera hidden in a tobacco pouch, and the like 

was not terminated until August 27, 1971, one week be- 
fore the break-in at the offices of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. 
Lewis Fielding. CIA laboratories also developed photos 
taken by Hunt and Liddy when they “cased” Dr. Fielding’s 
office in Beverly Hills. One CIA official who reviewed the 



270 



VICTOR LASKY 



film testified that he found the photos “intriguing” and 
recognized they were taken in southern California. He 
then ordered one of the photos enlarged. The blow-up re- 
vealed Dr. Fielding’s name in the parking lot next to his 
office, which information was immediately taken to higher- 
ups at the CIA. 

And although the CIA publicly claimed it had no con- 
tact “whatsoever” with Hunt after August 1971, the Sen- 
ate investigation disclosed at least a half-dozen later con- 
tacts continuing into the spring of 1972. In fact the CIA 
psychiatric study of Ellsberg was not completed until No- 
vember 1971. All of which led Senator Baker to contend 
that “documents and conflicting testimony of CIA per- 
sonnel” had raised questions about “whether the CIA had 
advance knowledge of the Fielding break-in.” 

Hunt maintained still another CIA connection. After 
leaving the Agency in 1970, he joined the Robert R. 
Mullen & Co. on a parttime basis. The Mullen organiza- 
tion was a Washington public relations firm which had long 
provided a “cover” for CIA operatives in Europe and Asia. 
President of Mullen was Robert F. Bennett, the son of 
Senator Wallace Bennett, a Utah Republican. Shortly 
after he joined the Mullen firm in 1971, Bennett was in- 
troduced to the firm’s CIA case officer. In joining Mullen, 
Bennett brought over a prestigious public relations ac- 
count — that of the Hughes Tool Company, Howard 
Hughes’s major corporation. According to CIA records, 
the Agency had given consideration to utilizing the 
Mullen-Hughes Tool relationship to provide a “cover” ar- 
rangement in South America, as well as to gather in- 
formation on Robert Maheu, the CIA’s former go-be- 
tween with the Mafia in the unsuccessful Castro assassina- 
tion plots. Why the Agency wanted information on Maheu 
was never made clear. But Maheu had been fired by 
Hughes, an act which had resulted in a bitter court fight. 

Bennett’s accessibility to the CIA raised questions in 
Baker’s mind concerning possible Agency involvement in, 
or knowledge of, his relations with Hunt’s activities in 
the White House plumbers. Bennett, for example, helped 
arrange a Hunt interview with someone who had claimed 
to know something about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquid- 
dick. It turned out he knew nothing. Bennett also coor- 
dinated the release of a statement by lobbyist Dita Beard 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 271 

intended to clear the Nixon administration of any im- 
propriety in its dealings with ITT. Hunt had flown to her 
hospital bedside in Denver after Bennett learned of her 
whereabouts from a Hughes executive. And it was Ben- 
nett who reported that a safe in Las Vegas contained ma- 
terial which could be of extreme interest to both Hughes 
and the CRP. The safe was that of Hank Greenspun, a 
newspaper publisher who had aroused the ire of Howard 
Hughes. And among the items in the safe reportedly were 
memoranda from the billionaire recluse himself. Plans for 
a break-in were aborted however, largely because Hughes’s 
attorneys said their employer could live without recovery 
of the documents. It was Bennett, too, who asked for and 
received from Hunt an estimate on what it would cost to 
wiretap Clifford Irving, then writing the spurious Hughes 
“autobiography.” The Hughes people decided the venture 
wasn’t worth the risk. 

Bennett was also in on Hunt’s recruitment of a young 
student, Tom Gregory, to act as a spy in both the Muskie 
and McGovern campaigns. In fact when Gregory had 
second thoughts about plans to wiretap the phones at Mc- 
Govern’s headquarters, he went to Bennett and told him 
he was quitting. This was on June 16, 1972, the day be- 
fore the Watergate break-in. Two days after the Watergate 
episode, which was before Hunt’s name surfaced in the 
press, Bennett talked with Hunt and apparently all but con- 
firmed his strong suspicion that his parttime employee was 
deeply involved with the burglary. Bennett, according to 
Baker, provided “detailed knowledge of the Watergate in- 
cident to his CIA case officer” on July 10, 1972, less than 
a month after the break-in. The case officer’s report, which 
was handwritten, was hand delivered to Director Helms 
on or before July 14, 1972; but the information was never 
relayed to the FBI which, after all, was investigating the 
case. 

Immediately after the break-in Bennett began to serve as 
liaison between Hunt and Liddy, all the while presumably 
reporting to his CIA case officer. Yet none of this was re- 
layed to the FBI. In fact Bennett later conceded he had 
not been fully responsive while appearing before the grand 
jury — a fact that took on added importance when it was 
disclosed that the CIA had paid half of his attorney’s fees 
when he testified. 



272 VICTOR LASKY 

Some of the information which Bennett withheld from 
the grand jury he transmitted to Edward Bennett Williams, 
counsel to the Democratic National Committee which had 
filed suit against CRP. Bennett had reported to his case 
officer that he had established this “back door entry” to 
Williams in order to “kill off* revelations of the CIA’s re- 
lationship with the Mullen organization. At the same time 
Bennett reported that he was planting phony stories with 
the media, specifically Newsweek magazine, which would 
lead investigators away from any CIA involvement. He 
seemed to take particular relish in fingering Charles Col- 
son as being implicated in Hunt’s activities. Bennett also 
claimed to have been feeding stories to the Washington 
Post's Bob Woodward, who was “suitably grateful” and 
was “protecting” Bennett and the Mullen Company. 

Obviously the CIA had known plenty of the operations 
of the “plumbers” unit at the White House. But what did 
the Agency know in advance about the break-in at the 
Watergate? In the period between March and May of 
1972, according to the Baker report, Hunt contacted the 
CIA’s External Employment Assistance Branch for former 
Agency personnel who might be willing to become involved 
in espionage operations. Hunt was particularly seeking to 
hire a “retired lock-picker,” an “entry man,” and other 
similarly gifted operatives. 

At the same time the Agency was aware that Hunt had 
been in contact with one of its Cuban informants, Eugenio 
Martinez. A former fulltime employee then on retainer to 
the Agency, Martinez had participated in the Hunt-di- 
rected break-in of the office of Ellsberg’s former psy- 
chiatrist in early September of 1971. 

That Martinez discussed his relationship with Hunt with 
both his CIA case officer and the Miami chief of station 
has been established by Senator Baker’s investigation. In 
March 1972 when Hunt began recruiting Cuban exiles for 
the Watergate caper, he again made contact with Martinez 
in Miami. At that time Martinez somewhat cryptically ad- 
vised the CIA station chief that Hunt was employed by 
the White House and “asked the Chief of Station if he was 
sure that he had been apprised of all Agency activities in 
the Miami area.” So concerned was the station chief, he 
later testified, that he wrote a letter to CIA headquarters 
asking about Hunt’s status. The response from headquar- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 273 

ters was that Hunt was on “domestic White House business 
of an unknown nature,” and that the station chief should 
“cool it.” Why the CIA didn’t show more interest in Hunt’s 
doings was later to perplex Baker and his investigators. 
The station chief himself was to testify about his astonish- 
ment. 

Actually, as Baker’s probers discovered, Martinez had 
two case officers during 1971 and 1972. The first one, ac- 
cording to the CIA, was on “African safari” at the time of 
the Watergate break-in, an assertion which raised the eye- 
brows of the investigators. But this was contradicted by 
the second case officer, who said that his predecessor was 
still in Miami on June 19, 1972, two days after the break-in. 
And when Baker asked that the first case officer be brought 
back for interrogation, the Agency said it couldn’t be done 
since he had been reassigned to Indochina. At the same 
time the CIA denied the investigators access to the Mar- 
tinez case officer reports. In other words the Agency did 
everything conceivably possible to prevent a thorough in- 
vestigation. Why? That is the question that continues to 
haunt Baker, Thompson, and their tiny team of investiga- 
tors. 

And why did the CIA unloose all its media weapons in a 
desperate effort to discredit the Baker investigation? When 
the senator first began digging into the CIA’s mysteries, the 
question was raised in the press whether Baker was look- 
ing for facts or for an alibi for Nixon. And in their syn- 
dicated columns, Tom Braden, an old CIA agent himself, 
as well as Evans and Novak, both friends of Helms, assailed 
Baker for seeking to advance his own political aims even 
though his investigation could harm the CIA. When Baker, 
under the press of a deadline, finally came up with an 
admittedly incomplete report of the CIA’s possible involve- 
ment with Watergate, the Washington Post predictably 
concluded that the senator had “done a difficult job un- 
satisfactorily.” 

With former CIA operatives on the Watergate burglar 
squad; with a CIA man suddenly turning up at James Mc- 
Cord’s home and destroying documents that might link 
McCord and the CIA; with Director Helms admitting that 
CIA tapes of conversations involving Nixon, Haldeman, 
Ehrlichman, and other White House officials were de- 
stroyed; with powerful Washington figures including Sen- 



274 



VICTOR LASKY 



ator Stuart Symington protecting CIA — was it any wonder 
that Senator Baker, in exasperation, declared there were 
“animals crashing around in the forest”? Again Chairman 
Ervin refused the minority request to include their CIA 
findings in the final report of the Watergate Committee. 
And he had the support of most of the other senators on 
the committee, including Republican Lowell Weicker. 
After reading the Baker report, Ervin said he had learned 
nothing new about the CIA role. “I think it made some 
foolish mistakes,” he said; he was not interested in check- 
ing out the extraordinary array of contradictions in testi- 
mony elicited by Baker’s men. 

Thus the Chairman made sure that the focus remained 
resolutely on the main task — “getting” Richard Nixon. 



EIGHTEEN 



As it turned out, the one person who had absolutely no 
advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in was Richard 
M. Nixon. 

A careful examination of the various tapes that Nixon 
was forced to turn over to the Special Watergate Prosecu- 
tor demonstrated beyond question that the President didn’t 
*have the slightest inkling that a group of “jackasses” — as 
he was later to describe them in what he believed to be 
the privacy of the Oval Office — was planning the caper 
whose unraveling was eventually to lead to his resigna- 
tion. 

Nixon’s lack of knowledge was made clear, even before 
the existence of the White House tapes became known, by 
Jeb Stuart Magruder. In his testimony before the Senate 
Watergate Committee on June 14, 1973, the former deputy 
director of CRP stated: “As far as I know, at no point 
during this entire period, from the time of planning the 
Watergate to the time of trying to keep it from public 
view, did the President have any knowledge of our errors 
in this matter. He had confidence in his aides, and I must 
confess that some of us failed him.” 

This finding was confirmed by an even more credible 
authority. Following the Watergate cover-up trial the chief 
U.S. prosecutor, James Neal, was asked by Time Corre- 
spondent Hays Gorey: “Did Nixon authorize the Water- 
gate bugging?” 

“No,” replied Neal. “The tapes show some surprise on 
Nixon’s part when he was told of the break-in.” And he 
gave as an example what he heard on the crucial so-called 
smoking gun tape of June 23, 1972. A week after the 
break-in at Democratic headquarters, Nixon asked his 
chief of staff H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, “Who was the ass- 
hole that did it? Was it Liddy?” 



276 



VICTOR LASKY 



On February 28, 1973, in a conversation with White 
House Counsel John Dean III, the President stated: “Of 
course, I am not dumb and I will never forget when I 
heard about this (adjective deleted) forced entry and 
bugging. I thought, what in the hell is this? What is the 
matter with these people? Are they crazy? I thought they 
were nuts! A prank! But it wasn’t! It wasn’t very funny. I 
think that our Democratic friends know that, too. They 
know what the hell it was. They don’t think we’d be in- 
volved in such.” 

“I think they do too,” Dean said. 

“Maybe they don’t. They don’t think I would be in- 
volved in such stuff. They think I have people capable of 
it. And they are correct, in that Colson would do any- 
thing.” 

As it turned out, Colson was never officially accused of 
having had anything to do with the break-in. He eventual- 
ly served time after pleading guilty to a totally unrelated 
charge, that he had interfered with justice by conspiring 
to “defame” Daniel Ellsberg — as hoked up a charge as ever 
came down the pike. 

Dean himself strongly disclaimed to the President that 
anyone at the White House had any prior knowledge of 
the break-in. On the morning of March 21, 1973, the 
lawyer observed, “I honestly believe that no one over here 
knew that. I know that as God is my maker I had no 
knowledge that they were going to do this.” 

Still the break-in did occur. But to many Watergate buffs 
the big mystery — as yet unexplained — is why the burglary- 
chm-bugging was ordered in the first place. The feeling 
persists, many years after the event, that no logical motive 
for the senseless deed has yet been provided. Perversely 
enough Ron Ziegler’s characterization of Watergate as a 
“third-rate burglary” remains the only rational explanation. 

Actually Watergate isn’t that much of a mystery. The 
basic story can be found in the transcripts of the presi- 
dential tapes. 

On the morning of March 21, 1973, John Dean III en- 
tered the Oval Office for a long talk with President Nixon. 
An ambitious young protege of Attorney General Mitchell 
at the Justice Department, Dean had been named White 
House counsel after John Ehrlichman had been named as- 
sistant to the President for domestic affairs. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 277 

After some chit chat Dean got to the point. “The reason 
that I thought we ought to talk this morning is because 
in our conversations, I have the impression that you don’t 
know everything I know. . . . We have a cancer — within — 
close to the presidency, that’s growing. It is growing daily. 
It’s compounded, growing geometrically now, because it 
compounds itself. . . . 

“How did it all start,” Dean went on, “where did it all 
start? It started with an instruction to me from Bob Halde- 
man to see if we couldn’t set up a perfectly legitimate cam- 
paign intelligence operation over at the Re-Election Com- 
mittee. Not being in this business, I turned to somebody 
who had been in this business, Jack Caulfield. I don’t re- 
member whether you remember Jack or not. He was your 
original bodyguard before they had the candidate protec- 
tion, an old city policeman.” 

The President remembered Caulfield. A former New 
York City police officer, Caulfield’s official job at the White 
House was to act as liaison with various law enforcement 
agencies. His immediate superior, at the beginning, was 
Ehrlichman. He was then transferred over to Dean. 

At Dean’s suggestion Caulfield came up with a plan to 
gather intelligence about the political opposition. Dean told 
the President that he had taken the plan to both Ehrlich- 
man and Mitchell, “and the consensus was that Caulfield 
was not the man to do this. In retrospect, that might have 
been a bad call because he is an incredibly cautious person 
and wouldn’t have put the situation where it is today.” 

In retrospect too, dumping the “incredibly cautious” 
Caulfield may well have been the first major blunder of the 
Watergate affair. For, under pressure to find someone else 
to take over the intelligence assignment. Dean came up with 
G. Gordon Liddy. First off, as Dean told the President, 
Liddy was a lawyer. Then, because of his FBI background, 
he “had an intelligence background.” Moreover Dean was 
aware that “he had done some extremely sensitive things 
for the White House . . . and he had apparently done them 
well.” 

Among other things Liddy had “worked with leaks,” 
tracking them down, said Dean. Egil Krogh, who had 
headed the plumbers, had reported that “he was a hell of a 
good man . . . and could set up a proper operation,” ac- 
cording to Dean. 



278 



VICTOR LASKY 



After he was hired by the CRP, Liddy was asked to put 
together a plan to gather intelligence about the political 
opposition. In January 1972 Magruder called Dean to at- 
tend a meeting at Mitchell’s office in order to listen to 
Liddy explain his plan. 

At first, Dean told the President, he was reticent about 
going. “I said I don’t really know if I am the man, but if 
you want me there I will be happy to. So I came over and 
Liddy laid out a million dollar plan that was the most in- 
credible thing I have ever laid my eyes on: all in codes, 
and involved black bag operations, kidnapping, providing 
prostitutes to weaken the opposition, bugging, mugging 
teams. It was an incredible thing.” 

“Tell me this,” the President interrupted, “did Mitchell 
go along — ?” 

“No, no, not at all. Mitchell just sat there puffing and 
laughing. I could tell from — after Liddy left the office I 
said that is the most incredible thing I have ever seen. He 
said, ‘I agree.’ And so Liddy was told to go back to the 
drawing board and come up with something realistic. So 
there was a second meeting. They asked me to come over 
to that. I came into the tail end of the meeting. I wasn’t 
there for the first part.” 

When he arrived. Dean discovered that they were dis- 
cussing bugging, kidnapping, and the like. Dean was 
alarmed. He broke in and said, “These are not the sort 
of things that are ever to be discussed in the office of the 
Attorney General of the United States . . . and I am per- 
sonally incensed.” 

Dean told the President he had been “trying to get 
Mitchell off the hook. He is a nice person and doesn’t like 
to have to say no when he is talking with people he is go- 
ing to have to work with.” 

“That’s right,” the President said. 

“So I let it be known. I said, ‘You all pack that stuff 
up and get it the hell out of here. You just can’t talk this 
way in this office and you should re-examine your whole 
thinking.’ ” 

“Who all was present?” the President asked. 

“It was Magruder, Mitchell, Liddy and myself. I came 
back right after the meeting and told Bob [Haldeman], 
‘Bob, we have a growing disaster on our hands if they 
are thinking this way,’ and I said, ‘The White House has 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 279 

got to stay out of this and I, frankly, am not going to be 
involved in it.’ Bob said, ‘I agree, John.’ ” 

At this point, Dean told the President, he thought the 
plan had been “turned off because it was an absurd pro- 
posal.” And while he had some other dealings with Liddy, 
they never discussed the matter again. “Now that would 
be hard to believe for some people, but we never did. That 
is the fact of the matter.” 

At any rate, Dean continued, from what he was later 
able to learn by putting the pieces together, Liddy returned 
to his CRP office “and tried to come up with another plan 
that he could sell. They were telling him that he was 
putting too much money in it. I don’t think they were 
discounting the illegal points. Jeb is not a lawyer. He did 
not know whether this is the way the game was played 
and what it was all about. They came up, apparently, with 
another plan, but they couldn’t get it approved by any- 
body over there. So Liddy and Hunt apparently came to see 
Chuck Colson, and Colson picked up the telephone and 
called Magruder and said, ‘You all either fish or cut bait. 
This is absurd to have these guys over there and not using 
them. If you are not going to use them, I may use them.* 
Things of this nature.” 

“When was this?” the President asked. 

“This was apparently in February of seventy-two.” 

“Did Colson know what they were talking about?” 

“I can only assume, because of his close relationship 
with Hunt, that he had a damn good idea what they were 
talking about, a damn good idea. He would probably deny 
it today. . . 

Did Dean think that Colson was “the person who 
pushed,” the President asked. 

“I think he helped to get the thing off the dime. Now 
something else occurred though — ” 

Had Colson talked to anyone at the White House? 

“No, I think this was — ” 

“Did he talk with Haldeman?” 

“No, I don’t think so. But there is the next thing that 
comes in the chain. I think Bob was assuming that they 

* Colson did deny it. Though he did make the phone call in ques- 
tion, he later said he did not believe that the Hunt-Liddy scheme 
involved illegalities. 



280 



VICTOR LASKY 



had something that was proper over there, some in- 
telligence gathering operation that Liddy was operating. 
And [Gordon] Strachan, who was [Haldeman’s] tickler, 
started pushing them to get some information and they — 
Magruder — took that as a signal to probably go to Mitchell 
and to say, ‘They are pushing us like crazy for this from 
the White House.*” 

“And so,” Dean continued, almost without catching his 
breath, “Mitchell probably puffed on his pipe and said, ‘Go 
ahead,* and never really reflected on what it was all about. 
So they had some plan that obviously had, I gather, some 
different targets. . . . They were going to infiltrate, and 
bug, and do all this sort of thing to a lot of these targets. 
This is knowledge I have after the fact. Apparently after 
they had initially broken in and bugged the DNC, they 
were getting information. The information was coming 
over here to Strachan and some of it was given to Halde- 
man, there is no doubt about it.” 

“Did (Haldeman) know where it was coming from?” 
the President interjected. 

“I don’t really know if he would,” Dean replied^ 

“Not necessarily?” 

“Not necessarily. Strachan knew it. There is no doubt 
about it, and whether Strachan — I have never come to 
press these people on these points because it hurts them to 
give that next inch, so I had to piece things together. 
Strachan was aware of receiving information, reporting to 
Bob. At one point Bob even gave instructions to change 
their capabilities from Muskie to McGovern, and passed 
this back through Strachan to Magruder and apparently to 
Liddy. And Liddy was starting to make arrangements to 
go in and bug the McGovern operation.” 

“They had never bugged Muskie, though, did they?” 

“No, they hadn’t, but they had infiltrated it by a secre- 
tary.” 

“By a secretary?” 

“By a secretary and a chauffeur. There is nothing illegal 
about that. So the information was coming over here and 
then I, finally, after — . The next point in time that I be- 
came aware of anything was on June seventeenth when I 
got the word that there had been this break-in at the DNC 
and somebody from our Committee had been caught in the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 281 

DNC. And I said, ‘Oh (expletive deleted).* You know, 
eventually putting the pieces together — ” 

“You knew what it was.” 

“I knew who it was. So I called Liddy on Monday morn- 
ing and said, ‘First, Gordon, I want to know whether any- 
body in the White House was involved in this.’ And he 
said, ‘No, they weren’t.’ I said, ‘Well I want to know how 
in (adjective deleted) name this happened.’ He said, ‘Well, 
I was pushed without mercy by Magruder to get in there 
and to get more information. That the information was not 
satisfactory. That Magruder said, “The White House is not 
happy with what we are getting.” ' 

“The White House?” 

“The White House. Yeah!” 

“Who,” the President asked, “do you think was pushing 
him?” 

“Well, I think it was probably Strachan thinking that 
Bob wanted things, because I have seen that happen on 
other occasions where things have been said to have been 
of very prime importance when they really weren’t.” 

“Why at that point in time I wonder?” the President 
asked. “I am just trying to think. We had just finished the 
Moscow trip. The Democrats had just nominated Mc- 
Govern.* I mean, (expletive deleted), what in the hell 
were these people doing? I can see their doing it earlier. I 
can see the presures, but I don’t see why all the pressure 
was on then.” 

“I don’t know, other than the fact that they might have 
been looking for information about the conventions.” 

“That’s right.” 

“Because, I understand that after the fact that there 
was a plan to bug Larry O’Brien’s suite down in Florida. 
So Liddy told me that this is what had happened and this 
is why it had happened.” 

“Where did he learn that there were plans to bug Larry 
O’Brien’s suite?” 

“From Magruder, long after the fact.” 

“Magruder is (unintelligible).” 

♦Nixon’s time sequence was confused; actually George McGovern 
was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President a month 
later in Miami Beach. 



282 



VICTOR LASKY 



“Yeah. Magruder is totally knowledgeable on the whole 
thing. ... I know that Magruder has perjured himself in 
the Grand Jury. I know that [Herbert] Porter has per- 
jured himself in the Grand Jury.” 

“Who is Porter?” 

“He is one of Magruder’s deputies. They set up this 
scenario which they ran by me. They said, ‘How about 
this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. If this is what you are going 
to hang on, fine.’ ” 

“What did they say in the Grand Jury?” 

“They said . . . that Liddy had come over as Counsel 
and we knew he had these capacities to do legitimate in- 
telligence. We had no idea what he was doing. He was 
given an authorization of $250,000 to collect information, 
because our surrogates were out on the road. They had no 
protection, and we had information that there were going 
to be demonstrations against them, and that we had to 
have a plan as to what they were going to be confronted 
with and Liddy was charged with doing this. We had 
no knowledge that he was going to bug the DNC.” 

“The point is, that is not true?” 

“That’s right.” 

“Magruder did know it was going to take place.” 
“Magruder gave the instructions to be back in the 
DNC.” 

“He did?” 

“Yes.” 

“You know that?” 

“Yes.” 

“I see. O.K.” 

“I honestly believe that no one over here knew that,” 
said Dean. “I know that as God is my maker, I had no 
knowledge that they were going to do this.” 

From Dean’s account to the President it becomes ob- 
vious that the break-in, at the very least, was not carefully 
conceived. If anything, it was largely the brainchild of G. 
Gordon Liddy. A flamboyant character, Liddy had been an 
FBI agent in the early 1960s, then an assistant district at- 
torney in New York’s Dutchess County. In 1968 Liddy 
had run unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 
what was then New York’s 28th Congressional District. 
Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr., the man who beat him, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 283 

recommended Liddy for a job with the Nixon administra- 
tion. 

His first job was at the Treasury Department, where he 
aroused the ire of his superiors for his unabashed op- 
position — publicly — to gun-control legislation. From there 
he kept getting tossed around like a hot potato. For a time 
he worked with Bud Krogh at the White House on drug- 
related projects, then with the plumbers. Then he was sent 
over to CRP as general counsel. Within four months he 
moved over to the finance committee as counsel. Stories 
of his eccentricities abounded, but no one had quite the 
guts to fire him. 

Magruder, for example, couldn’t whip up enough cour- 
age to get rid of him. In his Senate testimony he told of 
meeting Liddy in a hallway. 

“I simply put my hand on Mr. Liddy’s shoulder and he 
asked me to remove it and indicated that if I did not 
serious consequences would occur,” Magruder testified. 

“Was he more specific than serious consequences?” 

“Well, he indicated he would kill me.” 

Fear of Liddy and his seeming penchant for violence, in 
the final analysis, may well have been the reason why his 
colleagues gave him leeway in carrying out some of his 
crackpot schemes. And to assist him in gathering in- 
telligence, Liddy hired a former CIA agent named E. 
Howard Hunt on a parttime basis. They had worked to- 
gether on several plumbers assignments, including the effort 
to obtain defamatory material on Ellsberg. And they got 
along quite well. 

By this time Hunt was also working for the Mullen 
Company, the public relations firm with CIA ties. In fact 
Hunt had made the connection as a result of an intervention 
by Richard Helms. Bob Mullen, the founder of the firm, 
later said that the CIA director had “twisted my arm” 
to give Hunt a job. Hunt had retired from the CIA a day 
before. 

When Robert Bennett later joined the Mullen firm, he 
brought with him a choice public relations account. He 
had been named Howard Hughes’s Washington represen- 
tative, succeeding Larry O’Brien, who had been on the 
Hughes payroll for a fee of $15,000 a month. In all 
O’Brien served the multimillionaire recluse for sixteen 



284 



VICTOR LASKY 



months. For eleven of those months O’Brien also served 
as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. As 
Ron Rosenbaum noted in The Village Voice: 

It might be unfair to call O’Brien a high-level fixer for 
Hughes, but with Democratic majorities in both 
Houses of Congress and on most of the federal 
regulatory agencies it probably didn’t do Hughes any 
harm to have the Democratic National Chairman on 
the payroll. O’Brien never denied or attempted to 
cover up the fact that he was working for Howard 
Hughes, but he certainly didn’t publicize the relation- 
ship very strenuously and he never revealed how much 
he was getting paid. In eleven months of serving two 
masters, O’Brien received $165,000 from Howard 
Hughes. While there may be no violation of the law 
in such conduct, consider the outcry if, for instance, 
it were revealed that Republican National Chairman 
George Bush was receiving a $500 per day salary 
from Exxon. 

While O’Brien never denied his Hughes connection, very 
few people in his own party knew about it. And exactly 
what he did for all that bread was never officially dis- 
closed. There were reports that he had tried to help arrange 
an out-of-court settlement of the Hughes-TWA lawsuit. 
And there was some talk of his publicizing the “humanitar- 
ian efforts” of the Hughes Medical Foundation. But his 
efforts did not appear to be overly successful. 

At any rate it was at Hughes’s personal instructions that 
O’Brien had been hired. The recruiting was done by the 
multimillionaire’s chief lieutenant Robert Maheu. Hughes 
had gotten interested in O’Brien following Robert F. Ken- 
nedy’s assassination. O’Brien had served as campaign man- 
ager in Bobby’s tragically aborted run for the presidential 
nomination. Hughes wrote this memo to Maheu, “What is 
O’Brien going to do? Why don’t we get hold of him?” 

Eventually they got hold of him. 

The point is that Hughes didn’t give a damn about a 
man’s politics — whether he be Democrat or Republican, 
liberal or conservative. All that mattered was how much 
good that individual could do for Hughes. Thus he fre- 
quently financed Democrats and Republicans seeking the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 285 

same office, but always tailoring his contribution to a 
candidate’s chances of winning, giving more heavily to the 
front runner. In 1968, for example, Hughes transmitted 
$25,000 to Robert Kennedy for his presidential primary 
battles. Later he contributed to both Humphrey and Nixon, 
who were contesting each other for the presidency. 

After the 1968 election when Congress was considering 
legislation affecting tax-exempt organizations such as the 
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Hughes hired the 
Washington law firm of Clifford, Warnke, Glass, Mcllwain 
& Finney, whose partners included longtime advisers to 
Democratic presidents — former Defense Secretary Clark 
Clifford among them. And eight years before, at the start 
of the Kennedy administration, when Hughes was contest- 
ing TWA’s directors for control of the airline, he sent Bob 
Maheu to meet with Lyndon Johnson about the problem. 
The Vice President suggested the hiring of the firm of 
Arnold, Fortas & Porter, of which LBJ’s longtime friend 
and associate Abe Fortas was then a senior partner. This 
Hughes did. 

O’Brien’s profitable arrangement with Hughes was ter- 
minated in early 1971 when the multimillionaire had a 
falling out with Maheu, sparking a bitter court fight. 
That’s when Bennett entered the picture. And that’s when 
Bennett began using Hunt in connection with the all-im- 
portant Hughes account. Thus, according to Hunt, he was 
informed by Bennett of being approached by “the Hughes 
people” about the possibility of bugging Clifford Irving’s 
home. And it was Bennett who suggested that there were 
documents in the safe of Las Vegas publisher Hank Green- 
spun which could be of decided interest to both “the 
Hughes people” and the CRP. 

Already in place was the burglary team which had pre- 
viously broken into the offices of the Ellsberg psychiatrist. 
And Hunt, who had directed that bungled caper, was not 
adverse to using the team in behalf of what he perceived 
to be the interests of Howard Hughes. In fact Hunt con- 
ceived of a combined operation, involving the entry team 
and the Hughes people, aimed at cracking into the Green- 
spun safe. What Hunt wanted from the Hughes organiza- 
tion was a getaway plane to fly the team to a Central 
American country. 



286 



VICTOR LASKY 



• “Gee,” a Hughes man recalled asking Hunt, “suppose 
you get caught?” 

“We’re professionals,” replied Hunt. “Don’t worry about 
that.” 

The Hughes people rejected the proposal. But they were 
most decidedly interested in what Maheu was up to, par- 
ticularly his relations with Larry O’Brien. 

Which may well provide the answer to the still-recurring 
question as to why the Watergate burglars sought to wire- 
tap O’Brien. Hunt thus had hit upon the seemingly brilliant 
idea of combining public and private service. By supposedly 
obtaining political ammunition aimed at the Democrats, he 
would also be serving the interests of “the Hughes people.” 

O’Brien at the time headed a party that was $9 million 
in debt and whose membership was so divided that he 
could not lure all its representatives to the same dinner 
table. As he later observed, “The Democrats didn’t seem 
to think much of me; but to the Republicans, I was a 
giant.” 

An equally tantalizing question is why the phone of R. 
Spencer Oliver, Jr., was selected for tapping. Comparatively 
unknown in the political world, Oliver was the youthful 
executive director of the Association of Democratic State 
Chairmen, a post which did not involve much crucial de- 
cisionmaking. But by coincidence Oliver’s father, Robert 
Oliver, was an account executive at the Mullen company. 
In fact Bennett had placed him in day-to-day charge of the 
firm’s most important account — that of the Hughes Tool 
Company. There had even been discussions at one point 
about young Oliver buying into the Mullen firm. And it 
was known that Hunt was not too happy about the idea of 
having a liberal Democrat around the premises. 

As it turned out, the Oliver tap was the only one that 
functioned following the first Watergate break-in. The O’- 
Brien tap had failed to work. But the material garnered 
from the Oliver tap was considered “garbage” by those 
who, like Jeb Magruder, perused it. As John Ehrlichman 
was later to testify, “They learned a great deal more about 
Mr. Oliver than anybody really wanted to know.” 

From the very beginning Watergate had more the ele- 
ments of high farce than great tragedy. A group of bunglers 
had been turned loose to gather political intelligence and, 
needless to say, they did everything wrong. Probably con- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 287 

tributing the most to the botched-up caper was James W. 
McCord, Jr., who had taken over as the CRP’s fulltime 
security chief on January 1, 1972. He had been recom- 
mended for the job by Jack Caulfield and A1 Wong, an old 
friend who was then deputy assistant director of the Secret 
Service. (One of Wong’s assignments was the installation 
of the taping system at the White House.) 

McCord’s credentials seemed impressive. He had spent 
twenty-five years in government service, seventeen of them 
with the CIA. When he retired from the Agency in August 
1970, he was presented with a distinguished service award 
for outstanding performance of duty by none other than 
Director Helms himself. McCord then organized his own 
security consulting business, McCord Associates, Inc., in 
Rockville, Maryland. But business wasn’t too good. Offered 
the CRP job, McCord grabbed it. In fact McCord’s busi- 
ness “would have peen hopelessly in debt,** said Earl Sil- 
bert, the head of the original Watergate prosecution team, 
if he had not received three $10,000 checks in the spring 
of 1972, “presumably money for the Watergate operation.” 

Before long McCord had become acquainted with Liddy. 
They had something in common. Both had been FBI agents, 
and Liddy enjoyed telling “war stories” about his days in 
the Bureau. Before long, too, Liddy and McCord began 
discussing the problem of political violence. Liddy told 
McCord that the White House was concerned that the 
radicals might seek to duplicate the bloody events of the 
1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago at the forthcom- 
ing Republican Convention. Several violence-oriented 
groups had already publicized their plans to disrupt the 
convention, then scheduled for San Diego. (The convention 
site eventually was transferred to Miami Beach, where 
security could be more effectively implemented.) 

Of more immediate concern were the threats of violence 
being directed at Republican headquarters around the 
country. One weekend in February 1972, for example, 
there were demonstrations in Manchester, New Hampshire, 
against the opening of CRP offices. A few days later Mc- 
Cord learned that four “pipe bombs” had been found near 
Manchester’s police and fire departments. One of the bombs 
had exploded, mangling the arm of a young man involved 
in planting them. A young woman, apprehended as she was 
fleeing the scene, was found to be carrying letters addressed 



288 VICTOR LASKY 

to New Hampshire newspapers stating that “we have 
bombed the offices of the Committee to Re-Elect the 
President.” A search of her apartment revealed still more 
parts of pipe bombs. 

Other bomb incidents were reported to McCord, in- 
cluding one explosion on the ground floor of the Alameda 
County Republican Headquarters in Oakland, California. 
At the same time plans were announced for a massive 
antiwar demonstration in Washington. According , to Mc- 
Cord, the most militant of the groups, at least in its 
rhetoric, appeared to be the Vietnam Veterans Against the 
War (WAW). “I had no issue to take with them on their 
plans to demonstrate; it was the matter of violence they 
propounded against the Republican efforts, especially at the 
convention site, which held my interest. My job was that of 
protecting lives and property against violence. Property 
could be restored. Lives could not.” 

“Liddy’s job,” McCord went on, “was intelligence- 
gathering regarding such groups’ plans. Mine was the se- 
curity of our own personnel. . . . Early in his campaign, 
McGovern’s political base appeared to include an element 
of the groups talking disruption or violence. We were to 
receive some reports in May 1972 that the WAW and 
McGovern’s headquarters had linked forces in a West Coast 
college barn-storming tour, in a station wagon leased by 
the staff of McGovern headquarters. The party on the barn- 
storming tour reportedly included three VV AW personnel 
and one of McGovern’s staffers as a driver. Did collusion 
exist between McGovern headquarters, Democratic Nation- 
al Committee headquarters and such anti-war groups? 
This was one of the questions uppermost in my mind.” 

At any rate the decision was made to break into DNC 
headquarters. On or about April 1, 1972, Liddy called Mc- 
Cord and announced, “The operation has been approved.” 
He said he was going across the street to meet with Hunt 
at the Mullen offices. Hunt was being brought into the 
picture because he had a “team” of men with whom he 
had worked before; and McCord had the feeling that Liddy 
knew the men. On April 12, Liddy handed McCord a 
manila envelope containing $65,000 in $100 bills and 
said, “Get the equipment as quickly as you can.” Which 
McCord proceeded to do, arousing suspicions wherever he 
went. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 289 

Meanwhile the team was being assembled. McCord had 
hired a former FBI agent named Alfred Baldwin to act as 
a bodyguard for Martha Mitchell. He had found Baldwin’s 
name in the register of the Society of Former Special 
Agents of the FBI. But Mrs. Mitchell didn’t like him. And 
McCord told Baldwin he had other work in mind for him. 
That work, of course, involved monitoring the tapped 
phones at the DNC. 

The rest of the team was brought in by Hunt. Except for 
Frank Sturgis, they consisted of Cuban-Americans with a 
passionate hatred of Castro. All of them had been veterans 
of the Bay of Pigs, several had participated in the Ellsberg 
venture, and some still maintained CIA ties. Their mission 
was to find evidence proving that the Democrats were re- 
ceiving covert funds from Castro or from leftist, violence- 
prone organizations. 

There were, of course, two break-ins at the DNC. The 
first took several nights to complete. From the beginning 
it was obvious — in the words of Eugenio Martinez — that 
“there wasn’t adequate operational preparation. There was 
no floor plan of the building; no one knew the disposition 
of the elevators, how many guards there were, or even 
what time the guards checked the building. Gonzales did 
not know what kind of door he was supposed to open. 
There weren’t even any contingency plans.” 

One immediate result of this lack of preparation was the 
inability of Virgilio Gonzalez, the locksmith, to open the 
DNC door on the sixth floor of the Watergate Office Build- 
ing. And all the time he was working on the door, Mc- 
Cord — who had led the group into the building — would be 
going to the eighth floor. “It is still a mystery to me what 
he was doing there,” Martinez later wrote in Harper’s. 
“At 2:00 a.m. I went up to tell him about our problems, 
and there I saw him talking to two guards. What happened? 
I thought. Have we been caught? No, he knew the guards. 
So I did not ask questions, but I thought McCord was 
working there. It was the only thing that made sense. He 
was the one who led us to the place and it would not 
have made sense for us to have rooms at the Watergate 
and go on this operation if there was not someone there 
on the inside. Anyway, I joined the group, and pretty soon 
we picked up our briefcases and walked out the front 
door.” 



290 



VICTOR LASKY 



Hunt was furious. He insisted that Gonzalez return to 
Miami in order to obtain the proper tools. So, with prac- 
tically no sleep, the locksmith flew South. He came back 
on Sunday afternoon, May 27, 1972. And early the next 
morning a successful entry was made. While McCord in- 
stalled the phone taps, the others were busy photographing 
what they believed to be records of contributions. As 
Martinez wrote, “I had hopes that we might have done 
something valuable. We all had heard rumors in Miami 
that McGovern was receiving money from Castro. That 
was nothing new. We believe that today.” 

As it turned out, the fruits of the break-in which were 
turned over to Magruder were worthless. The photo- 
graphed documents included unpaid bills owed by the 
Democrats. And the transcripts of the wiretapped con- 
versations told a great deal about the social lives of the 
members of the DNC staff, but little of political conse- 
quence. Liddy was told the stuff wasn’t worth the paper 
it was printed on. The problem was, Liddy lamely ex- 
plained, that “one of the bugs isn’t working. And they put 
one of them on O’Brien’s secretary’s phone instead of 
O’Brien’s phone. But I’ll get everything straightened out 
right away.” 

McCord had fouled up on his assignment. Despite this, 
he insisted he could repair the damage. A new entry was 

planned. 

The rest is well-told history. The Watergate burglars 
were discovered when a night watchman, Frank Wills, 
while making his rounds, found tape over the lock on the 
garage door. Thinking the tape had been left by the 
maintenance crew, Wills removed it and then went across 
the street to Howard Johnson’s for a cup of coffee. Back on 
his rounds, the guard discovered that the door had been 
retaped. He then called the police. 

A year later four of the Miamians who were apprehended 
the night of June 17, 1972, were interviewed at the federal 
penitenitary in Danbury, Connecticut, by Senator Weicker. 
Two of the four, according to the notes taken by the 
senator, expressed considerable suspicion of their convicted 
fellow conspirator James McCord, suggesting at least by 
implication that he may have been a double agent who had 
deliberately led them into a trap. 

According to the notes, which were not verbatim, Eu- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 291 

genio Martinez told the senator “that when they made their 
entry, they were in all right, but because McCord was 
late, they had to put tape on the door the second time. 
And when he finally joined them, they asked him whether 
he had removed the tapes when he came up and he said 
he had. But the fact of the matter is, he hadn’t, and that’s 
what led to their getting caught.” 

Another of the convicted conspirators, Sturgis, “presented 
a series of facts concerning McCord’s involvement which 
he implied certainly cast some question on whether or not 
McCord had a different role than the one they thought he 
did,” the notes said. 

“For example,” said Sturgis, “McCord got us equipment 
that didn’t work, Baldwin was stationed across the street 
but when the police were searching the building, the men 
inside had not been warned and tipped off. McCord came 
late to the rendezvous and not only came late but told 
them he had taken the tape off the door when it turned out 
he had not.” 

McCord also instructed Barker to turn off his walkie- 
talkie, thus cutting off communications with Baldwin, who 
was stationed at Howard Johnson’s across the street. As a 
result Baldwin was unable to warn his cohorts when the 
police arrived. 

And as Sturgis noted, “It’s also strange that three police- 
men . were cruising in that very area, three policemen in 
plain clothes. McCord was the first one after [the arrests] 
to open up and spill the beans. And yet . . . McCord was 
the one who had ordered (us) not to talk.” 

All four prisoners (the others were Bernard Barker and 
Virgilio Gonzalez) agreed that from the very beginning the 
break-ins were marked by incredible bungling. According 
to the notes, Martinez told Weicker that, “had they not 
been caught he had already made up his mind that he 
would not do any more missions for this group (of) highly 
unprofessional bunglers.” 

Martinez, the notes added, “said he was totally disgusted 
with all of this and very puzzled. He couldn’t understand the 
amateurism and the sloppiness and was very concerned 
about it. But he said he kept being reassured that they 
knew what they were doing, that they were the experts, 
that they were the leaders and that they knew what they 
were doing.” 



292 



VICTOR LASKY 



There is one other puzzling piece of information about 
McCord. That had to do with his relationship with Louis 
Russell, a former congressional investigator down on his 
luck. For a time Russell had been employed by the General 
Security Services, which provided the guards for the Water- 
gate Office Building. And despite his outspoken dislike of 
Nixon, Russell had been placed on the payroll by McCord 
as a night watchman for the President’s reelection commit- 
tee, a job terminated following McCord’s arrest. But most 
interesting was the fact that on the night of the second 
break-in, Russell had had dinner at the Howard Johnson’s 
just across the street from Watergate. Later he told in- 
vestigators that he had dined there for “sentimental rea- 
sons”; he once had a girlfriend who worked nearby. 

McCord’s conduct following his arrest was even more 
bizarre. Not only did he vehemently deny CIA responsi- 
bility for Watergate, but he threatened to expose White 
House involvement if any effort were made to blame “the 
company.” Yet it was McCord who, immediately upon his 
apprehension, told one of the arresting officers that all the 
men being picked up were former CIA employees. Later 
McCord charged that his lawyer Gerald Alch had suggested 
that in his defense he should claim Watergate was a CIA 
operation. He said that Alch claimed he could arrange to 
have McCord’s records appropriately doctored to show that 
McCord was still in the CIA’s employ at the time of the 
break-in. Alch, he claimed, had stated he could get the in- 
coming CIA director James Schlesinger to handle the mat- 
ter. But Alch, an outstanding Boston lawyer of unblemished 
reputation, flatly and vigorously denied the allegations un- 
der oath while testifying before the Ervin Committee. In 
other words he called McCord a liar. And to prove the 
point he suggested that both he and McCord be given 
polygraph tests. 

But this did not meet with the approval of Sam Ervin, 
who launched into a discourse on the inadmissibility of lie- 
detector tests as evidence. It was just as likely, however, 
that the senator wanted to dispose of Alch as quickly as 
possible. An effective witness, the Bostonian had completely 
shredded McCord’s highly publicized testimony. Alch 
meanwhile went ahead on his own and took a polygraph 
examination. He sent the results, which, he felt, proved his 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 293 

point, to Ervin. But the solon from North Carolina never 
recalled McCord for further testimony. 

Previously McCord had obtained additional counsel, 
Bernard Fensterwald, who had been introduced to McCord 
by Lou Russell. Almost immediately he offered to help 
raise the money for McCord’s bail. And, according to Alch, 
Fensterwald did indeed raise $40,000 of the required 
$100,000. Mrs. McCord got the rest. Though it seemed 
strange that Fensterwald would be doing this for someone 
he hardly knew, Alch said, “I was not about to look a 
gift horse in the mouth.” 

Alch did work with Fensterwald in McCord’s behalf for 
a short period. And Alch testified that Fensterwald had 
once told him in a telephone conversation, “We’re going 
after the President of the United States.” 

When Alch retorted that he was not interested “in any 
vendettas against the President, but only in the best in- 
terest of my client,” Fensterwald was quoted as saying, 
“Well, you’ll see; that’s who we’re going after — the Presi- 
dent.” 

Demonstrating his extreme partisanship, Ervin refused 
to get to the bottom of the argument between Alch and 
McCord. It may well have been that the Tarheel senator 
was of the opinion that his committee should begin to 
concentrate on the main issues. Nevertheless Ervin per- 
mitted the record to be cluttered with all kinds of other 
statements which would never have been permitted in any 
court of law. 

Of considerable interest, however, was the role played by 
Fensterwald. Senator Baker, the ranking Republican, 
agreed that all parties to the dispute — Alch, McCord, and 
Fensterwald — be given lie-detector tests. Baker observed . 
that the results would be at least as informative as the 
extraordinary amount of hearsay evidence cluttering the 
record. But Ervin said he was not interested in any such 
“twentieth century witchcraft.” 

Still there were other questions which were' never re- 
solved. Just exactly when did Fensterwald become involved 
with McCord? Why did he help raise the princely sum of 
$40,000 in bail funds to get McCord out of jail? Where 
did he get the funds? 

And who exactly was Fensterwald? Around Washington 



294 



VICTOR LASKY 



he was known as an eccentric lawyer, whose main hobby 
had been to promote further investigations into the assassi- 
nations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In 
fact he set up a special committee aimed at discovering the 
“truth” about the two tragedies. And while he had denied 
the statements attributed to him by Alch, he has since 
publicly conceded that as a longtime Democrat he had an 
interest in going after President Nixon. 

But that would have been a question that could well 
have been asked of him by the Ervin Committee — if it had 
been truly interested in looking into all the ramifications of 
Watergate. And the committee could also have checked 
into a New York Times story which impeached Fenster- 
wald’s credibility in another area. According to investiga- 
tive reporter Denny Walsh, Fensterw&ld “made false state- 
ments and false implications during his questioning of a key 
witness while serving as counsel to a Senate subcommittee 
investigating electronic snooping in the mid-nineteen six- 
ties. . . Sources close to that investigation quoted Fenster- 
wald as having asked government agents for “sexy and sen- 
sational” material for use in public hearings. He also told 
the agents he was seeking evidence “with some publicity 
value.” 

Except for the Times , no other newspaper — not even the 
Washington Post always searching for new Watergate an- 
gles — unloosed investigatory resources on Fensterwald’s 
controversial background. Likewise the networks kept 
hands off. 

But that shouldn’t have prevented the Ervin Committee 
from spending some time on the matter. After all what 
was at stake was the people’s right to know all the facts — 
even those which may have cast discredit on anti-Nixon 
witnesses. 



NINETEEN 



As Watergate began to unravel in the spring of 1973, com- 
mencement speakers had a field day deploring the scandal. 
And W. Allen Wallis, chancellor of the University of 
Rochester, was no exception. Addressing the graduating 
class at Roberts Wesleyan College, Wallis said that he 
agreed with other speakers across the nation that “Water- 
gate is deplorable, disgraceful, immoral, shocking, inex- 
cusable, alarming, reprehensible, and quite a few other 
things besides, none of them nice.” 

“But,” he went on, “the saddest thing about Watergate 
is that in important respects it is far from unique, or even 
unusual. It is another of those many instances in which 
the end is regarded as justifying the means. One thing dif- 
ferent about Watergate, however, is that the end is not ac- 
ceptable to the academic-journalistic complex, as were the 
ends pursued by Daniel Ellsberg, the Berrigan brothers, 
the anti-war rioters, the Black Panthers, and innumerable 
others stretching back to the sit-in strikers of the 1930’s.” 

According to Wallis, “the perpetrators of Watergate ap- 
pear to be men of good character by their own lights, who 
put conscience and patriotism above civil law. In that re- 
gard, they are exactly like Daniel Ellsberg. Yet the press, 
the ministers, and the politicians who condemn the Water- 
gate convicts praise Ellsberg, the Berrigans, and others 
who have used comparable means for different ends. . . . 

“This is why I said earlier that the reaction by journalists 
and politicians to the Watergate break-in has been morally 
even more corrupt than the Watergate activities them- 
selves.” 

In the final analysis Watergate was largely a media event 
— the most spectacular in the history of American journal- 
ism. The break-in itself was chiefly the result of a com- 
bination of poor judgment and innocuous stupidity on the 



296 



VICTOR LASKY 



part of the perpetrators. Yet the episode was blown up 
through incessant publicity, and an inane caper was trans- 
formed into “the crime of the century.” And though not to 
be condoned, the so-called cover-up and obstruction of 
justice constituted a natural human reaction rather than 
the heinous crime trumpeted by a largely liberal media. 

Similar, if not far worse, crimes had been committed in 
previous administrations, but the lack of interest in them 
on the part of the media was notorious. Had the Watergate 
break-in taken place during the Kennedy administration, 
for example, it is safe to say that the matter, while perhaps 
duly noted, would have been forgotten quickly. As so many 
other Kennedy abuses of power were. 

The main reason for the double standard was JFK’s 
popularity with the press corps. Kennedy had spent an in- 
ordinate amount of time catering to influential columnists, 
correspondents, and broadcast personalities. Many of them, 
like Ben Bradlee, were close personal friends. In their eyes, 
“Jack” could do no wrong. And if he did wrong, they 
rarely got emotional about it. 

Nixon, on the other hand, was much more wary of the 
press. He did not go out of his way to cultivate corre- 
spondents and columnists. Generally he felt uneasy around 
them. All through his long, controversial career in politics, 
he felt that the major news media was out to “get” him. 

Not that he was entirely wrong. As the late Stewart 
Alsop once pointed out, “The notion that Mr. Nixon is a 
sort of monster has been almost an article of faith” among 
liberal journalists. The surprise in their ranks generated by 
Nixon’s approach to the People’s Republic of China was 
due to a preconceived and mistaken notion that he was a 
doctrinaire whose administration would be devoid of new 
approaches. 

Nixon himself has long believed that the hostility of 
the liberal media toward him began early in his political 
career when he took the lead in exposing Alger Hiss. A 
former State Department official. Hiss had been accused 
by Whittaker Chambers of having been a member of an 
underground Communist group in the nation’s capital. 
Nixon, then thirty-five years of age and a member of the 
House Committee on Un-American Activities, pressed 
hard to determine the truth. Eventually Hiss was prose- 
cuted by the Justice Department under President Truman 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 297 

and was convicted on a perjury charge when he denied 
having slipped confidential U.S. government material to an 
admitted spy courier. And, though the Hiss case made 
Nixon a household word, he also became a marked man 
among liberals, many of whom swore they would never 
forgive his “witch-hunting.” 

Nixon discussed the climate of opinion generated by the 
Hiss case in his book Six Crises , which was published in 
1962. “Hiss,” he wrote, 

was clearly the symbol of a considerable number of 
perfectly loyal citizens whose theaters of operation 
are the nation’s mass media and universities, its schol- 
arly foundations, and its government bureaucracies 

They are not Communists (but) they are of a mind- 
set as doctrinaire as those on the extreme right. ... As 
soon as the Hiss case broke and well before a full bill 
of particulars was even available, much less open to 
close critical analysis, they leaped to the defense of 
Alger Hiss — and to a counter attack of unparalleled 
venom and irrational fury on his accusers. 

Nixon next faced what he termed “the overwhelming- 
ly hostile reaction of the press” when he ran for Vice 
President in 1952. The issue was a so-called secret fund 
which had been raised by his supporters to help him pay 
the costs of political activities — postage, travel expenses, 
and the like — during his term as a senator. In all $18,000 
was involved. The New York Post was first to break the 
story. Its front page on September 18 was dominated with 
the big, black words: secret nixon fundI The story itself 
was given on page two, under the headline: secret rich 

MEN’S TRUST FUND KEEPS NIXON IN STYLE BEYOND HIS 

salary. As it turned out, the story was an exaggerated 
version of the facts. There was nothing “secret” about the 
fund. Other politicians, including the Post ' s candidate for 
President, Adlai Stevenson, had made similar arrange- 
ments. 

Years later such funds were specifically approved in the 
code of rules and ethics adopted by the U.S. Senate. And 
when the post-Watergate Federal Election Commission 
sought to regulate these privately funded “office accounts,” 
the Senate by a close vote on October 8, 1975, said no. 



298 



VICTOR LASKY 



Such accounts are funded by leftover campaign donations 
as well as contributions from outside donors. They are in 
no way different from Nixon’s so-called slush fund of a 
quarter century ago. 

But back in 1952 most of the liberal furies were directed 
at Nixon. There were demands, even among leading Re- 
publicans, that he quit the ticket headed by Eisenhower. 
However Nixon managed to turn the issue around with a 
broadcast appearance which became known as the “Check- 
ers” speech. 

Some influential press organs refused to let up. Typical 
was the front-page story published in the St. Louis Post - 
Dispatch on October 30, 1952, five days before the elec- 
tion. The story alleged that Nixon had been seen in a gam- 
bling casino in Havana the previous April, presumably 
living it up with “secret” funds. The story was quickly 
picked up and widely used throughout the country. It 
turned out that Nixon had been making speeches in 
Hawaii at the time the Post-Dispatch placed him in Cuba. 
But by the time the truth was made known, the phony story 
had done its damage. 

The hostility of much of the press continued throughout 
Nixon’s eight years as Vice President. During his 1960 run 
for the presidency most of the correspondents covering the 
campaign made no secret of their support of Kennedy. 

“In 1960,” wrote Timothy Crouse in The Boys on the 
Bus * “many reporters had become shills for Kennedy* . . . 
The reporters on Kennedy’s plane referred to the candidate 
as ‘Jack,’ talked constantly about his ‘style’ and ‘grace,* 
cheered his speeches, and sang anti-Nixon songs with Ken- 
nedy staffers around hotel bars. The Kennedy people en- 
couraged this claque atmosphere. . . .” 

Nixon’s own bitterness at such press treatment was ex- 
acerbated during his 1962 run for governor of California. 
The morning after he lost his race, Nixon told reporters, 
“You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, 
gentlemen, this is my last press conference . . .” Pat Brown, 
who had been watching his defeated opponent on televi- 
sion, said: “Nixon is going to regret ail his life that he made 
that speech. The press will never let him forget it.” 

♦(New York: Random House, 1973), p. 182. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 299 

Covering Nixon’s 1968 campaign for the presidency, 
Gloria Steinem wrote in New York Magazine: “In fact, the 
reporters don't like Richard Nixon. As far as I’ve been able 
to find out, only two members of the ninety-odd press corps 
are likely to vote for him: the U.S. News & World Report 
man, who was also for Nixon in ’60, and the Voice of 
America correspondent, who is thought to be Republican 
because he doesn’t join in anti-Nixon bull sessions and 
smokes an unlit pipe.” 

In The Making of the President 1968 , Ted White com- 
mented that what he called the new culture “dominates the 
heights of national communications, subtly but profoundly 
influences those who sit astride the daily news flow in 
New York and Washington, and thus stains, increasingly, 
the prisms of reporting through which the nation as a whole 
must see itself.” 

And, of all people, Mrs. Katherine Graham, president 
of the Washington Post Company, had this to say to 
Sigma Delta Chi, the journalism fraternity, in November 
1970: “There is some validity in the allegation that we tend 
to draw our reporters from a common, narrow base. One of 
our staff members put it this way in a memo: ‘Inevitably, 
the Post reflects the background biases of the people who 
put it out. We are for the most part a collection of Eastern- 
ers .. . generally liberal.’ ” 

A similar situation applies in television, according to 
ABC commentator Howard K. Smith. In a pre-Watergate 
commentary Smith described the staffs of the network 
news departments as generally liberal, with a “strong left- 
ward bias.” Smith, who considers himself “left of center,” 
deplored what he termed the pervasiveness of a “party line” 
in reporting the news. “Our liberal friends have become 
dogmatic,” he said. “They have a set of automatic reactions. 
They react the way political cartoonists do — with over- 
simplification. They’re pleasing the Washington Post, 
they’re pleasing the editors of The New York Times , 
they’re pleasing one another.” 

It’s not that there is a conspiracy among the press, but 
there most definitely is conformity. That the overwhelming 
majority of Washington newsmen have a similar “liberal” 
political viewpoint is a fact of life accepted by most 
politicians. As a consequence objectivity in reporting has 



300 



VICTOR LASKY 



largely gone by the boards and there is an increasing 
tendency toward advocacy in the news columns. Noting 
this, the late Arthur Krock, one of the giants of Washing- 
ton journalism, wrote in 1971 of the “highly subjective 
nature,” “the name-calling and emotionalism,” and the 
“liberty that verges so readily into license” in the treatment 
of Washington news. 

On no subject was the Washington press corps more 
united than in a general dislike, if not hatred, of Richard 
Nixon. And Nixon reacted in kind. To him, as he would 
say privately, “the press is the enemy.” To him, news peo- 
ple constituted — with some exceptions — an unelected, un- 
representative, and unbelievably arrogant elite. 

There were a few newsmen who did not permit their 
presumed liberalism to affect their reporting. One of them 
was David Broder, of the Washington Post , whose reputa- 
tion as a political analyst is respected in all camps. In the 
fail of 1969, after Nixon had served for nine months, 
Broder riled many liberals with a column accusing the anti- 
war movement of trying “to break the President.” He put 
it this way: 

. . . The men and the movement that broke Lyndon 
Johnson’s authority in 1968 are out to break Richard 
M. Nixon in 1969. The likelihood is great that they 
will succeed again, for breaking a President is, like 
most feats, easier to accomplish the second time 
around. . . . First, the breakers arrogate to themselves 
a position of moral superiority. For that reason, a war 
that is unpopular, expensive and very probably un- 
wise is labeled as immoral, indecent and intolerable. 

Broder concluded: 

The orators who remind us that Mr. Nixon has been 
in office for nine months should remind themselves 
that he will remain there for thirty-nine more months 
— unless, of course, they are willing to put their con- 
victions to the test by moving to impeach him. Is that 
not, really, the proper course, rather than destroying 
his capacity to lead while leaving him in office, rather 
than leaving the nation with a broken President at its 
head for three years? 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 301 

One columnist who was to make no secret of his desire 
to “break” the President was Tom Wicker of The New 
York Times. He compared the first Nixon Inaugural un- 
favorably with that of President Kennedy eight years 
previously which, he wrote, had brought to Americans the 
feeling that “they were taking the first steps into a bold new 
era.” (Forgotten, of course, was the fact they were also 
taking the first steps to the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam.) In 
contrast, Wicker wrote, the Nixon inauguration “brought 
no sense of excitement, of ground-breaking of new worlds,” 
with the new President offering only “the old values and the 
old assumptions and even the old rhetoric.” He also com- 
plained about the Marine band “playing such square music 
as This Is My Country and God Bless America” 

With the passage of time Wicker got more vehement. 
On February 22, 1971, at an antiwar teach-in at Harvard, 
the columnist urged 2,000 students to “engage in civil 
disobedience of all kinds” as a means of demonstrat- 
ing opposition to the Nixon administration’s policy in Viet- 
nam. “We got one President out and perhaps we can do 
that again,” he said, referring to LBJ’s 1968 decision not 
to seek reelection. 

Getting American forces out of Vietnam without hand- 
ing the country over to the Communists was Nixon’s major 
objective during his first term. What Nixon was seeking, 
as he said repeatedly, was “peace with honor.” Eventually 
he came up with a program which he labeled “Vietnamiza- 
tion.” At the same time he sought to negotiate secretly with 
the enemy. 

Before long The New York Times claimed that the 
United States was moving toward unilateral withdrawal. 
The story came at a particularly unpropitious time for the 
new administration since the President was seeking to as- 
sure the South Vietnamese that no “sellout” was in the 
works. The Times published other exclusive stories on 
foreign policy obviously based on “leaks” — that is, the 
surreptitious release of sensitive information. As Kissinger 
was to tell a Senate committee, the spring of 1969 was a 
“particularly sensitive time with regard to the formulation 
of this country’s foreign policies and the establishment of 
our future relations with other nations. During this period, 
policies were being considered which would establish the 
fundamental approach to major foreign policy issues such 



302 



VICTOR LASKY 



as the United States’ strategic posture, Strategic Arms 
Limitation Talks (SALT), Vietnam and many other na- 
tional security issues. Because of the sensitive nature of 
these matters, the secrecy of each was of vital importance, 
and the success or failure of each program turned in many 
instances upon the maintenance of necessary security. How- 
ever, notwithstanding the critical need for such security 
during this period, we were confronted with leaks to the 
press of information of the greatest importance to the na- 
tional security.” 

Kissinger,*. as the President’s chief security adviser, was 
almost paranoid about leaks. And this was not necessarily 
a bad trait. For, at Nixon’s instructions, the former Har- 
vard professor was engaged in complicated dealings with 
foreign adversaries. And Kissinger agreed with the Presi- 
dent that the only serious negotiations were those that were 
kept secret. True, critics were to label this attitude a Nixon- 
ian obsession. But how else could sensitive foreign rela- 
tions be carried on? For example, without secrecy it 
would have been most difficult to have opened the door to 
the People’s Republic of China. 

It wasn’t that Kissinger was adverse to dealing with the 
press. He spent an inordinate amount of time worrying 
about what the papers were going to say about him. He 
was probably the most image-conscious member of the 
Nixon administration. Nor was he adverse to “leaking,” as 
long as he controlled the process. At his very first staff 
meeting in January 1969 he announced firmly, “If anybody 
leaks anything, I will do the leaking.” 

Thus when national security leaks were involved, it was 
Kissinger who played a major role in arranging for wire- 
taps of his own staff as well as newsmen. In this he had 
the President’s full approval. The object, of course, was 
to determine who was doing the leaking. Nixon was later 
to say that he regarded the operation as completely legal 
under the law. Moreover, he said, J. Edgar Hoover had as- 
sured him that such procedures had been used by previous 
administrations to find leaks — a fact which has been estab- 
lished during recent congressional probes. 

On September 7, 1973, at hearings of the Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee on his confirmation as Secretary of 
State, Kissinger explained why the FBI wiretaps were or- 
dered. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 303 

“When this Administration came into office,” he testified, 
“for a period of many months it was confronted with leaks 
to the press of documents of the greatest importance to the 
national security. These included discussions of National 
Security Council deliberations, of procedures in case of 
emergency contingency planning, and of specific military 
operations. 

“The last conversation I had with President Eisenhower 
was when he called me from Walter Reed Hospital to 
protest that information that had been given to him by 
the President only two days before as extremely confi- 
dential had found its way into a newspaper on the day 
that he called.” 

Barry Goldwater had a similar experience. He tells of 
attending “a meeting of top officials in the White House,” 
and the next day he “read all about it in the morning paper 
... I am not talking about just any meeting. I am talking 
about a meeting that I felt was so confidential that I did 
not even discuss it with my staff. Yet, the next day I found 
a completely accurate account in the newspaper. It was so 
accurate that even the words I spoke were correctly at- 
tributed. You almost have to have it happen to you to un- 
derstand the feeling such an experience gives you. I called 
the President and suggested that something would have 
to be done to seal off the leaks of information from the 
executive branch.” 

Goldwater; of course, was not then aware that the Presi- 
dent was indeed trying to do something. How successful 
he was is debatable. Concerning the wiretaps, Nixon told 
John Dean on February 28, 1973: “They never helped us. 
Just gobs and gobs of material; gossip and bullshitting — the 
tapping was very, very unproductive. . . .” 

Kissinger, who probably had better knowledge of the 
productivity, said at his confirmation heftring, “There were 
some cases in which the sources of some leaks were dis- 
covered and in which appropriate action was taken.” 

The wiretapping program was ended in February 1971. 
In July Assistant Attorney General Robert Mardian dis- 
cussed the disposal of the tapes with President Nixon at the 
Western White House in San Clemente. In later testimony 
Mardian said that Nixon explained the taping was related 
to national security leaks which had to be stopped. The 
President was concerned that information from the National 



304 



VICTOR LASKY 



Security Council relating to the American position on the 
current SALT talks had been in the possession of the Rus- 
sians before one of the meetings. “In that context,” Mardian 
went on, “he expressed great concern not only about 
SALT, but also his ability to govern if he could not main- 
tain the confidentiality of the White House.” 

By this time there had occurred the most massive security 
leak in our diplomatic history. This was the publication of 
numerous documents which became known as the Pentagon 
Papers. Carefully edited portions of the papers — a history 
of the Vietnam war and U.S. involvement as prepared by 
Defense Department experts — began to appear in The New 
York Times. The first article, which was published on 
June 13, 1971, curiously enough did not appear to arouse 
too much concern in the Oval Office. If anything the ma- 
terial included revelations that could be embarrassing only 
to Lyndon Johnson and his top advisers. Since the study 
ended in early 1968, the material was hardly likely to em- 
barrass the Nixon administration. 

But Kissinger felt different. As National Security Coun- 
cil director he was then negotiating secretly with North 
Vietnamese officials in Paris seeking an end to the war in 
Vietnam. At the same time there were negotiations with 
the People’s Republic of China for a confidential visit to 
Peking by Kissinger — with the hope of paving the way 
for a rapprochement with the Communist regime. The 
fear was that the Chinese might back out . because the 
United States was incapable of keeping confidences with 
other nations. 

When it became known that Daniel J. Ellsberg was the 
former government official who had purloined the Pentagon 
documents and then given them to the Times, Kissinger 
was even more upset. Kissinger had known Ellsberg. They 
had worked together on a paper dealing with U.S. options 
in Vietnam at the Nixon transition headquarters in New 
York. Ellsberg was then on the payroll of the Rand Cor- 
poration, a West Coast think tank with close government 
connections. What Kissinger did not know at the time was 
that Ellsberg, who had been a fanatical “hawk” on Viet- 
nam, by now had become an even more fanatical “dove.” 

According to Colson, Kissinger was “even more alarmed” 
by the publication of the Pentagon Papers than Nixon, and 
he communicated his alarm to the President. In an affidavit 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 305 

made public by a federal judge on April 29, 1974, the 
former presidential counsel asserted that Kissinger “believed 
that the leaks must be stopped at all costs, that Ellsberg 
must be stopped from making further disclosures of classi- 
fied information and that those acting in concert with him 
must be stopped.” 

Colson told of one •high-level White House meeting at 
which “Dr. Kissinger also reported on Ellsberg’s private 
habits and certain of his activities in Vietnam.” This of 
course was a reference to what a CIA psychiatrist was to 
refer to as Ellsberg’s “blatant” and variegated sexual habits. 

Ehrlichman, who also met with the President and Kissin- 
ger, later quoted Kissinger as describing Ellsberg as “a 
fanatic,” as well as a “known drug abuser,” who had 
“knowledge of very critical defense secrets of current va- 
lidity, such as nuclear deterrent targeting.” The latter re- 
ferred to Ellsberg’s having worked on nuclear targeting 
plans for Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara 
in the mid-sixties. These closely held nuclear secrets were 
contained in a highly classified document — the Single Inte- 
grated Operations Plan (SIOP). Kissinger informed Nixon 
that a leak of SIOP would be devastating to national se- 
curity. SIOP spelled out the timing and attack patterns of 
American nuclear bombs in case of war; it contained 
specific targeting information for every military objective 
behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains, including the num- 
ber and power of nuclear warheads programmed for each 
target. 

Contributing to the fears was a report from an FBI 
counterspy that the Soviet Embassy in Washington had 
received a full set of the Pentagon Papers prior to their 
publication. The immediate suspicion was that it was Ells- 
berg who had passed on the secret documents. Accord- 
ing to a New York Times story, one former Nixon official 
recalled Kissinger’s “literally pounding the President’s 
table” over all of this. 

By this time Nixon had come to see in Ellsberg another 
Hiss. Pressured by Kissinger to do something about the 
“madman’s” activities, the President called in Colson and 
Haldeman and said: “I don’t give a damn how it is done, 
do whatever has to be done to stop these leaks and prevent 
further unauthorized disclosures; I don’t want to be told 
why it can’t be done. This Government cannot survive, it 



306 



VICTOR LASKY 



cannot function if anyone can run out and leak whatever 
documents he wants to.” 

Colson said the President had demanded to learn “how 
and why the ‘counter-government* is at work, I don’t 
want excuses. I want results. I want it done, whatever the 
costs.” 

There was another reason for presidential anger. The 
feeling was that Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers 
had thwarted a peace offer made by the United States to 
North Vietnam. The offer was delivered in Paris by Kissin- 
ger in May 1971. He, Nixon, and other U.S. officials be- 
lieved it would be accepted. But, according to Colson, 
when Hanoi rejected the offer “without giving any reasons’* 
thirteen days after the Times began publishing the papers 
on June 13, 1971, “the White House felt their publication 
weakened support given to the United States by other 
countries and led North Vietnam to expect further weak- 
ening of our position.” Later Colson estimated that this 
probably delayed the end of the war by eighteen months. 

That “the Nixon Administration’s concern with Ells- 
berg was not unreasonable” was a point made by the Wall 
Street Journal in an editorial on July 16, 1974, following 
the conviction of Ehrlichman and others for the break-in 
at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. ‘*‘He had access to a 
great deal of classified information far more important than 
the Pentagon Papers, and his motivations and psychological 
make-up were highly pertinent in trying to guess what 
else he might release. And as we now after all know, 
sporadic and sensitive negotiations were under way to ex- 
tricate the U.S. from the Vietnam war.” 

It is of course easy at this point in time — to use a Water- 
gate phrase — to forget what the political climate was like 
back in the Nixon years. But it was a most painful period 
in American life: one of great tension and polarization, of 
angry rhetoric and demonstrations, of conspiracies real and 
imagined, of casual talk about overthrowing everything. 
Often it was more than talk. Scanlan f s f a now-defunct anti- 
Establishment monthly, claimed in January 1971 that there 
was a dramatic increase in “guerrilla acts and terrorism.” 
As evidence it listed over 1,200 acts of violence per- 
petrated during the period of 1965 to June 1970. They 
included sniping, bombing, dynamiting, arson, the use of 
Molotov cocktails, and terrorism. The violence of the New 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 307 

Left appeared to be sanctioned in the seemingly lofty pages 
of The New York Review of Books. Andrew Kopkind, for 
example, enunciated his memorable observation: “Morality, 
like politics, starts at the barrel of a gun.” Kopkind seemed 
to be championing rioting, and the young responded on 
the campuses. This was the time when the Review pub- 
lished an illustration on its cover on how to manufacture a 
Molotov Cocktail, a provocative act which was to haunt 
the weekly’s editors despite Murray Kempton’s funny re- 
mark that people in Newark found the cocktail formula 
didn’t work. 

Leaders of both political parties were alarmed. Follow- 
ing the 1967 antiwar demonstration at the Pentagon, at 
which Vietcong flags were unfurled, Democratic floor 
leader Carl Albert charged that the huge demonstration 
was “basically organized by international Communism.*’ 
And Republican floor leader Gerald Ford revealed that 
President Johnson, at a White House meeting, had read to 
him and other GOP leaders a secret report contending that 
the demonstration had been organized by the international 
Communist movement. Ford claimed to have asked that 
the report be made public. But, he said, Attorney Gen- 
eral Clark and Secretary of State Rusk both claimed that 
doing so would compromise sources of information and 
create a “new wave of McCarthyism.” 

Later Senator Henry Jackson met with President Nixon 
in the Oval Office to complain bitterly about the easy ac- 
cess Soviet agents were having up on the Hill to argue 
against such major defense proposals as the anti-ballistic 
missile. The way “Scoop” had it, KGB agents were actual- 
ly being welcomed into the offices of a number of senators 
and congressmen; moreover there wasn’t a blessed thing 
the FBI could do about it. For under restrictions agreed 
to by Director Hoover, none of his agents were permitted 
— except under rare circumstances — to conduct surveil- 
lance on Capitol grounds. 

And following the publication of the Pentagon Papers, 
Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia called on a senator to 
urge, in his words, “the enactment of Federal legislation 
that would make news organizations criminally liable.” 

It was in this environment that the Special Investigations 
Unit — later to become more familiar as the “plumbers” — 
was born. The White House felt — rightly or wrongly — that 



308 



VICTOR LASKY 



the FBI had been dragging its feet in the Ellsberg case. 
For one thing there was Hoover’s friendship with Ells- 
berg’s father-in-law Louis Marx. A wealthy toy manufac- 
turer, Marx was far from sympathetic with his son-in-law’s 
exotic politics. Nevertheless Hoover did not want his friend 
interviewed by any of his agents. Somehow the director’s 
wishes were ignored. Through a mixup Marx was in- 
terrogated. After which the FBI official in charge was reas- 
signed to a less desirable post. 

Moreover Hoover believed — again rightly or wrongly — 
than an intensive investigation into how the Pentagon 
Papers came to be published would only create public re- 
lations problems for his Bureau. At this stage of his long 
life Hoover was too weary to do battle with his old foes 
in the media. The director felt that the Ellsberg case con- 
stituted a no-win situation. 

All of which helped to create still more dissatisfaction 
with the FBI at the White House. For some time Nixon 
and his aides had been annoyed at the Bureau’s inability 
to cope with the New Left, and particularly with the rash 
of bombings that were taking place across the country. The 
feeling was that while Hoover had done a good job in- 
filtrating organizations like the Communist party and the 
Ku Klux Klan, the director’s old-fashioned methods were 
not appropriate for combating the new extremists. At the 
same time the White House disliked dealing with the FBI 
because, as Ehrlichman told me at the time, “the Bureau 
leaks like a sieve.” For a while Nixon was urged by some 
aides to put Hoover out to pasture. But they quickly 
learned there was no way they could get the director to 
agree to a well-earned retirement. 

Thus with Ehrlichman as the head honcho, the plumbers 
came into being. But Ehrlichman, then presidential as- 
sistant in charge of domestic affairs, was too busy to involve 
himself very deeply in investigative matters. He turned 
over the principal chores to two young lawyers on the 
White House staff. They were David R. Young, Jr., thirty- 
two, and Egil M. (“Bud”) Krogh, Jr., thirty-one, neither 
of whom had any investigative experience to speak of. 

Krogh had gone to work at the White House in May 
1969 as an aide to Ehrlichman, for whom he had worked 
briefly in a Seattle law firm. Like Ehrlichman he was a 
Christian Scientist. After graduating from Principia College 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 309 

in Illinois, Krogh served for two years in the navy. In 1968 
he was graduated from the University of Washington law 
school. At the White House his work was outstanding. 
Among other things he acted as liaison with the District of 
Columbia. 

District problems had concerned Nixon from the mo- 
ment he entered the White House. The erupting crime rate 
in the nation’s capital had been forcefully brought to his 
attention by an ad hoc committee composed of some of the 
town’s leading citizens who, as it happened, were mostly of 
the liberal persuasion. Those who met with Attorney Gen- 
eral Mitchell to call for action on the part of the new ad- 
ministration included Katherine Graham, publisher of the 
Washington Post; attorney Edward Bennett Williams, a 
noted civil libertarian; and Joe Califano, former aide to 
President Johnson and later counsel to the Democratic Na- 
tional Committee. As Mitchell recalled their conversation, 
they described the situation in Washington as being so 
bad that they feared for their lives. Among other things 
they suggested the stationing of federal troops throughout 
the capital for the emergency. 

The irony of the leading lights of the liberal Establish- 
ment calling for such extremist measures was not lost on 
Nixon. Though elected on a “law and order” platform, the 
President did not want to launch his administration by 
virtually declaring martial law. That, of course, had been 
the case not too many: months earlier during the racial 
rioting that greeted the assassination of Dr. King. Instead 
Nixon felt that beefing up the local police forces would 
be a better response. And Krogh, as liaison with the 
District of Columbia, was right in the thick of things 
helping push through Congress various measures sought 
by the local government. He also traveled to Europe, Asia, 
the Middle East, and Latin America, coordinating admin- 
istration efforts to check the world heroin trade. 

And so Krogh became co-chief of the plumbers, his 
partner being Dave Young, a trusted aide to Kissinger. 
Young had known Henry for some time before coming 
to Washington. They had met at the Rockefeller brothers’ 
office in midtown Manhattan. An Oxford graduate, Young 
had been a member of the law firm of Milbank-Tweed 
when he was assigned to work at the Rockefeller office. 
He became chief researcher for Nancy Maginnes (now 



310 



VICTOR LASKY 



Mrs. Kissinger), who directed foreign policy analyses for 
the Rockefellers. When Kissinger went to work for Nixon, 
he invited the young lawyer to become his appointments 
secretary. With his new bride, the former Susie Kelley, who 
had also worked for the Rockefellers, Young moved to 
Washington and settled on Foxhall Road. 

Working for Kissinger didn’t prove overly exciting for 
Young, who found himself doing all kinds of odd chores, 
such as handling Henry’s social schedule and personal 
business. “Dave’s wife even did Henry’s laundry,” one 
former official said. So Young wasn’t overly distressed 
when he was assigned to investigate leaks. 

Testifying at his confirmation hearings to be Secretary 
of State, Kissinger said under oath that he had no 
knowledge “of any such [illegal] activities that David 
Young may have engaged in. I did not know of the ex- 
istence of the Plumbers group, by that or any other name. 
Nor did I know that David Young was concerned with in- 
ternal security matters.” 

Kissinger did concede that, though Young had been 
transferred to Ehrlichman’s staff in June 1971, his former 
aide remained on Kissinger’s payroll until forced out of 
the government in May 1973. Kissinger testified he had 
understood that Young was working on a declassification 
project. Which, of course. Was the “cover” for Young’s 
role with the plumbers. “I had no contact with David 
Young either by telephone or in my office or in any other 
way after he left my staff, although I continued to have a 
high regard for him.” 

Two weeks after he was approved as Secretary, the 
Watergate Committee released an affidavit which in effect 
called into question Kissinger’s knowledge of the plumbers. 
The affidavit disclosed that on August 12, 1971, David 
Young met with a CIA psychiatrist named Dr. Bernard 
Malloy to arrange for a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg. 
This was at a time when Kissinger had testified he was 
unaware of his former aide’s doings. According to the 
affidavit, however, “Mr. Young stated that the Ellsberg 
study had the highest priority, and had been requested by 
Mr. Ehrlichman and Dr. Kissinger.” 

Malloy’s study of Ellsberg, based as it was on news- 
paper clippings, magazine articles, and a few State De- 
partment documents and FBI reports, proved unsatisfac- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 311 - 

tory. Also unsatisfactory was an FBI visit to the Beverly 
Hills offices of Ellsberg’s former psychiatrist. On advice 
of counsel Dr. Lewis J. Fielding refused to cooperate with 
the Bureau by discussing his former patient’s mental prob- 
lems. 

The plumbers, augmented by G. Gordon Liddy and 
Howard Hunt, discussed the possibility of a “bag job” — or 
an illegal entry of the Fielding premises — by the FBI. But 
J. Edgar Hoover had previously ordered the end of such 
operations. As for using the Secret Service, the feeling was 
— as reported by Liddy — that its agents could not be 
trusted on such sensitive assignments. 

Meanwhile, Ehrlichman kept the President informed 
about what the plumbers were up to. Nixon’s only beef was 
that “their effort . . . was not vigorous enough.” At one 
point the President told Ehrlichman that “Krogh should, 
of course, do whatever he considered necessary to get to 
the bottom of the matter — to learn what Ellsberg’s mo- 
tives and potential ' further harmful action might be.” 
Which was what Krogh sought to do. With what he be- 
lieved to be Ehrlichman’s approval, Krogh authorized “a 
covert operation ... to examine all the medical files still 
held by Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst covering the two-year 
period in which he was undergoing analysis.” Among other 
things, said Krogh, he was seeking information possibly 
leading to other conspirators. But as Krogh himself later 
made clear, after he received a six-month jail term on 
charges growing out of the burglary of Dr. Fielding’s of- 
fices, “I received no specific instruction or authority what- 
soever regarding the break-in from the President, directly 
or indirectly.” 

The burglary itself was a botched job. The Cuban- 
Americans who had broken into the psychiatrist’s offices 
could find nothing of interest. They took some photos 
showing that they had, indeed, been on the job; and then 
they went back to the Beverly Hilton where, for some un- 
accountable reason, Hunt broke out the champagne as if 
to celebrate. But celebrate what? To this day the Cubans 
have been perplexed by “Eduardo’s” behavior. 

On their return to Washington Hunt and Liddy re- 
ported their mission was unaccomplished. They showed 
Krogh the pictures of the damage that was done to Field- 
ing’s office. The reason for the damage, they said, was to 



312 



VICTOR LASKY 



make it appear that a burglar was searching for money 
and/or drugs. Then Hunt and Liddy sought permission to 
break into Dr. Fielding’s apartment since they felt that, 
after the FBI visit, the psychiatrist might have taken the 
Ellsberg file home. But Ehrlichman told Krogh, “The 
thing should be terminated, discontinued, finalized, 
stopped.” 

It was almost two years later when Nixon first learned of 
the episode. This came during a conversation with Dean 
on March 17, 1973: 

dean: . . . The other potential problem is Ehrlichman’s 
and this is — 

president: In connection with Hunt? 

dean: In connection with Hunt and Liddy both. 

president: They worked for him? 

dean: They — these fellows had to be some idiots as we’ve 
learned after the fact. They went out and went into Dr. 
Ellsberg’s doctor’s office and they had, they were geared 
up with all this CIA equipment — cameras and the 
like. . . . 

president: What in the world — what in the name of God 
was Ehrlichman having something (unintelligible) in the 
Ellsberg (unintelligible)? 

dean: They were trying to — this was a part of an opera- 
tion that — in connection with the Pentagon Papers. They 
were — the whole thing — they wanted to get Ellsberg’s 
psychiatric records for some reason. I don’t know. 
president: This is the first I ever heard of this. I, I (un- 
intelligible) care about Ellsberg was not our problem. 

All through the summer of 1971 the leaks continued. 
On July 24 the President met with Ehrlichman and Krogh 
to complain bitterly about a New York Times dispatch 
which disclosed the U.S. back-up position in its arms 
limitation talks with the Soviet Union. When Krogh re- 
ported that the “prime suspect” was a Pentagon official who 
had talked to the Times reporter that week, Nixon ex- 
ploded: If the son-of-a-bitch leaked, he’s not for the Gov- 
ernment . . . little people do not leak . . . this crap to the 
effect: well, a stenographer did it, or the waste paper 
basket did it. It’s never that case. I’ve studied these cases 
long enough, and it’s always a son-of-a-bitch that leaks.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 313 

How to get the “sons-of-bitches” out of government was 
a subject much on White House minds. One published 
story was particularly sensitive since it could only have 
come from a CIA informant within the government of 
India. The story, published in the Times , reported that 
Moscow had urged India not to recognize East Pakistan 
as an independent nation. The informant incidentally was 
not heard from after that, but Krogh was led to believe 
he may well have lost his life. 

Then came a series of columns by Jack Anderson dis- 
closing that the Nixon administration, while publicly pro- 
fessing neutrality, had privately “tilted” toward Pakistan 
in its dispute with India. The columns were particularly 
sensitive since they contained material obviously taken 
from the minutes of the Washington Special Action Group, 
a super-secret outfit set up by the White House to deal 
with major crises. In one of his columns, for example, 
Anderson quoted Kissinger as saying, “I’m getting hell 
every half-hour from the President that we’re not being 
tough enough on India. He has just called me again. He 
doesn’t believe we’re carrying out his wishes. He wants 
us to tilt in favor of Pakistan.”* 

By this time the plumbers had already been disbanded. 
But both Krogh and Young were called back to duty and 
ordered to look for Anderson’s source. They not only 
quickly discovered who they believed to be the source 
but, in so doing, learned of the existence of a “ring” of 
military officers who were spying on the activities of the 
National Security Council. The discovery sent alarm bells 
ringing throughout the White House. 

Most of the investigatory work was done by Young. 
And Young had determined that a Yeoman First Class 
Charles E. Radford had rifled files, briefcases, and “burn 
bags” for documents to be clandestinely transmitted to the 
joint chiefs at the Pentagon. Whether this could be con- 
sidered espionage in the traditional sense is debatable. 

♦Actually Nixon had sought to dissuade India’s prime minister 
Indira Gandhi from waging war with neighboring Pakistan. The 
President felt Pakistan should be given time to work out problems 
with her eastern wing, now known as Bangladesh. Nixon argued 
that no one would benefit from that war. Considering the problems 
of Bangladesh and now of India, under Gandhi’s authoritarian rule, 
Nixon was not too far off the mark. 



314 



VICTOR LASKY 



Obviously the joint chiefs wanted to know what the hell 
was going on inside “Henry’s shop.” Like the President, 
Kissinger preferred to play his cards close to his vest, 
telling as few people as possible what they were up to. 
And what they were up to — particularly in regard to 
detente with the Soviets and the Chinese, as well as in 
limitation of strategic arms — was what the joint chiefs ap- 
parently felt they had a right to know. 

Nevertheless Kissinger was outraged at the discovery 
of what was to become known as “Pentagon spying.” Not 
only did he order the liaison office shut down, but he ar- 
ranged for the transfers of Rear Admiral Robert O. 
Welander and his assistant Yeoman Radford. Welander 
was sent out to command a cruiser flotilla; Radford (who 
was also suspected of being Anderson’s source) was trans- 
ferred to a reserve recruiting station in the Far West. Ap- 
parently on orders from President Nixon a major effort 
was made to keep the messy affair under wraps. 

Several years later after the story was broken by the 
Chicago Tribune , Kissinger continued to deny that he had 
had any knowledge of the plumbers. At a press con- 
ference in January 1974 the Secretary of State conceded 
that he had been aware that his former assistant had in- 
terrogated Admiral Welander, “but from this one could 
not suppose that David Young was conducting an investi- 
gation.” 

The more Kissinger attempted to explain, the more he 
perplexed seasoned correspondents. Even his best friends 
in the press corps were displeased by his double talk. The 
Washington Post, for example, observed editorially that 
Kissinger’s sworn assurances that he had known nothing of 
David Young and/or the plumbers “look very strange 
now.” And Nick Thimmesch summed it all up by say- 
ing that, while he could understand Dr. Kissinger’s valid 
worry about leaks, 

what I can’t understand is why Kissinger, in the Year 
of Watergate, hasn’t owned up to his role in the wire- 
tapping of a number of his own staff and other gov- 
ernment figures, his deep involvement with David 
Young and his knowledge of the plumbers’ activities. 
His denial of the latter, as found in his testimony be- 
fore the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 315 

get Dr. Kissinger into serious trouble, possibly into 
a charge of perjury. 

In other words Kissinger could well have defended ac- 
tions he was obviously involved with. After all, whatever 
wrong came out of wiretapping and the plumbers’ activities 
could hardly be laid to him, for he certainly did not order 
criminality. 

But, unlike most hapless individuals in the Nixon ad- 
ministration including eventually the President himself, 
Kissinger had many good friends in such critical places as 
the Congress and the media. And they came to his rescue 
in June 1974 when, still riding high on a number of for- 
eign policy successes, Kissinger threatened to resign unless 
he was cleared of allegations that he had participated in 
“illegal or shady activity*’ in government wiretapping of 
individuals. The Secretary had expected a hero’s welcome 
when he returned to Washington following exhausting and 
successful negotiations in the Middle East. Instead he was 
jolted by blunt news conference questions as to whether 
he was retaining counsel for a possible perjury trial. 

How deeply wounded Kissinger felt at the questioning 
of his veracity was demonstrated a few days later when he 
angrily voiced his threat to resign at an unscheduled press 
conference in Salzburg, Austria, where he and Nixon had 
paused before their trip through Israel and the Arab na- 
tions. Scarcely had his anguished words echoed through the 
halls of Congress when fifty-two senators of both parties, 
without waiting for all the evidence, raced to sign a resolu- 
tion stating that Kissinger’s “integrity and veracity are 
beyond reproach.” 

With some major exceptions {The New York Times , for 
example, accused the Secretary of “dissembling”), edito- 
rialists and columnists in Washington and across the coun- 
try also rushed to Kissinger’s defense. In general they 
argued that the search for Watergate culprits had gone 
too far. Joseph Alsop wondered 

why it was so shocking for a servant of the Nixon Ad- 
ministration to worry about national security to the 
extent of knowingly approving under a score of wire- 
taps. After all, national security wiretaps were very 
much more numerous in the Truman Administration, 



316 



VICTOR LASKY 



and they were vastly more numerous in the admin- 
istration of President Kennedy. This reporter, with a 
known three wiretaps to his credit, all pre-Nixon, has 
long held the doctrine that if you have not been 
tapped, you have been slacking on your job. ... In 
short, the servants of the Nixon Administration are 
plainly being judged by different tests than those that 
prevailed in happier times. 

Nevertheless there was a pronounced lack of desire to 
go after Kissinger with the same prosecutorial zeal dem- 
onstrated against other figures in the Nixon entourage. 
Even for those who thought Henry had not been telling the 
whole story, as Newsweek reported at the time, “there 
seems little enthusiasm for pursuing the matter.” Kissinger 
was the only political hero left in the dying days of the 
Nixon administration. Even perjury should be forgiven 
when it came to Henry, said his old friend Joseph Kraft, 
who had been zestfully punching away at Nixon and his 
aides. “While he may have lied,” Kraft informed his read- 
ers, “the untruths are matters of little consequence when 
weighed against his service to the state.” 

It was obvious, as then noted by one of Kissinger’s 
wiretapping victims, that different standards were being 
applied in judging the conduct of Nixon and his much- 
admired Secretary of State. Apparently, wrote Daniel I. 
Davidson, who had been a member of Kissinger’s staff, 
“the normal rules of conduct are not applicable to Henry 
Kissinger superstar. If those rules are not applicable to 
him, should they be applicable to Richard Nixon, who 
also deserves credit for foreign policy achievements?” 



TWENTY 



Ironically, despite repeated contentions to the contrary, 
the 1972 presidential campaign proved to be one of the 
cleanest in American history. All of the “dirty tricks” per- 
formed by the Nixonites had “the weight of a feather” in 
determining the final outcome, as Theodore H. White 
phrased it in The Making of the President 1972 . If any- 
thing Nixon’s 61-38 percent margin might have been larger 
if 3 or 4 million Americans had not been turned off by 
Watergate. 

Actually the biggest “dirty trick” of the campaign was 
one the Democrats played on themselves — the nomination 
of George McGovern as their standardbearer. For in presi- 
dential terms the senator from South Dakota was a goner 
by the night he was nominated. Rarely had the American 
electorate seen as bizarre a gathering as the delegates who 
came together at Miami Beach for the quadrennial Demo- 
cratic Convention. And it was all there on the tube several 
days running. To many stay-at-home Democrats the spec- 
tacle was far from edifying. At the White House where he 
occasionally glanced at his set, the incumbent knew he 
had it made. The election was over before it actually began. 

A year later, toward the tail end of the Watergate hear- 
ings, Hubert Humphrey — who had himself sought the 1972 
nomination — appeared on Meet the Press . In response to a 
question the senator from Minnesota observed that “the 
dirtiest trick that was played was the Democrats playing 
it on themselves, their crazy system of quotas and sub- 
quotas and partial voting, all kinds of gymnastics, po- 
litical gymnastics that we went through to divide our party. 
No Republican could have conceived of a program that did 
as much to tear the Democratic party apart as we our- 
selves.” 

Of course Humphrey did his bit to assure McGovern’s 



318 



VICTOR LASKY 



defeat. After Ed Muskie had been eliminated as a front- 
runner, the Minnesotan delivered upon McGovern as dev- 
astating an attack as anyone in the White House could 
have dreamed of. Humphrey made the case against Mc- 
Govern better than any of his subsequent Republican at- 
tackers. Writing in Life magazine, Pierre Salinger, who had 
been one of McGovern’s top aides, contended that Hum- 
phrey and the high command of the AFL-CIO had “suc- 
ceeded beyond their wildest expectations” in painting Mc- 
Govern as a “dangerous radical.” Literature aimed at 
defense workers claimed that a McGovern presidency 
would cost them their jobs. Jews were handed pamphlets 
saying that McGovern would sell out Israel. In televised 
debates Humphrey pronounced McGovern’s economic pro- 
gram as irresponsible and his tax program as confiscatory. 
“McGovern’s positions were shamelessly distorted beyond 
recognition and the damage was done,” wrote Salinger. “I 
am not saying that the Nixon campaign would not have 
done the same thing, but Hubert Humphrey had credibility 
with Democrats which Nixon never possessed.” 

There were issues in the 1972 campaign and McGovern 
lost on them. In the March 1974 issue of The Atlantic , 
David Broder wrote: “Every serious analysis of the 1972 
election shows that issues had a larger importance than 
ever before — and worked badly to the Democrats’ detri- 
ment. What few Democrats in Congress, but many out- 
side, see is that, despite Watergate chicanery, Richard 
Nixon won on the issues in 1972 — as he was able to de- 
fine them.” 

And while McGovern himself refused to agree that he 
had lost on the issues, the ill-fated candidate did finally 
concede that the electorate had overwhelmingly rejected 
what “they perceived to be a confusion and uncertainty of 
leadership” — that is, McGovern’s leadership. “To a large 
degree the failure of that campaign was its own fault, and 
I bear the largest share of responsibility,” McGovern said 
in October 1975 — three years after his defeat. It was the 
first time he had publicly taken upon himself the blame 
for his party’s debacle. The senator listed among his “mis- 
takes”: “the inadequate preparation” of his proposal for a 
$1,000 guaranteed annual income, which he never properly 
explained; “staff disorganization and disputes”; delivering 
his acceptance speech at 3:00 a.m. when the television au- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



319 



dience was asleep; and the “vice presidential problem” — 
namely, the selection and subsequent removal of Senator 
Thomas F. Eagleton as his runningmate without thorough 
checking. The Eagleton episode, said McGovern, “was the 
most serious error of the campaign.” 

McGovern could also have listed among his “mistakes” 
his intemperate rhetoric. As he was battling to stay alive 
politically, he could hardly contain himself. “It is Mc- 
Govern, not Nixon, who has been driven to the harsh and 
shrill extremes,” noted John Osborne in The New Republic. 
Among other things McGovern likened Nixon to Hitler, re- 
peatedly saying, “The main issue in this whole campaign 
is Richard M. Nixon.” And at a Midwest airport in the final 
week of the campaign the Democratic candidate greeted 
a heckler with the historic words, “Kiss my ass.” By this 
time McGovern had also had it with conservative news- 
paper columnists. “I find them pretty despicable char- 
acters,” he observed. “They’re really propagandists for a 
narrow and outmoded cause.” So bitter were the Mc- 
Govemites toward some of the gentlemen of the press 
that Frank Mankiewicz personally ordered Robert Novak, 
of Evans & Novak, barred from the candidate’s plane and 
relegated to the “Zoo plane,” usually filled with television 
technicians and the like. When he heard of the shift, a 
livid Novak encountered Mankiewicz and shouted, “Okay, 
Frank. No more Mr. Nice Guy!” 

Not one of McGovern’s “mistakes” could in any way 
have been attributed to Nixon’s “dirty tricksters,” the most 
notorious of whom was Donald H. Segretti. In fact when 
news of the break-in hit the newspapers, all such activity 
was called off. Segretti himself scurried into hiding. And 
from mid-June McGovern was able to head up a campaign 
in which, as a disillusioned Dick Tuck has suggested, the 
only “dirty tricks” were “the ones the McGovern cam- 
paigners played on each other.” 

Tuck, of course, was the Democrats* “dirty trickster,” 
who had long made a career out of harassing Republicans, 
particularly Nixon. Except that his many media friends 
would lovingly refer to his dubious activities as “pranks.” 
Frank Mankiewicz however, for whom Tuck had worked 
during the McGovern campaign, did describe Tuck as what 
he really was — “the grand old man of dirty tricks.” (It 
was a title which “the grand old man” did not appreci- 



320 



VICTOR LASKY 



ate, particularly after Watergate when some of his past 
capers came back to haunt him.) 

Mankiewicz, incidentally, was not opposed to “dirty 
tricks” when they were practiced against McGovern’s 
enemies during the 1972 primaries. And he made that per- 
fectly clear in a book entitled Perfectly Clear, a rousing 
attack on Nixon. In reviewing the book for the Washing- 
ton Post, Lou Cannon, an expert on California politics, 
noted that Mankiewicz’s effort presents Nixon “not as man 
but as monster. Even more, the book reveals a persistent 
double standard that does Mankiewicz no credit. Mc- 
Govern’s ‘pranks’ against John Lindsay are great fun. Dick 
Tuck is glorified (with no mention of his paste-and- 
scissors campaign against a decent Democratic state sen- 
ator). . . .” 

The McGovernite pranks against Lindsay constituted a 
textbook case of overkill. They occurred during the primary 
in Florida where the New York mayor sought to establish 
himself as a Democratic contender. McGovern’s main 
objective was to stop Lindsay, whom he considered the 
prime obstacle in his battle for the championship of the 
left. To this end McGovern had a strange ally in Matthew 
Troy, Jr., the Queens Democratic leader who hated Lind- 
say’s guts. Among other things Troy had gained renown 
when he climbed the roof at City Hail to raise the flag 
after Lindsay had ordered it flown at half-mast following 
the tragic events at Kent State. For, if anything, Troy rep- 
resented the earthy patriotism of New York’s hard-hat 
voters, a fact which, according to Mankiewicz, “made him 
a special hero to us.” Politics do indeed make strange bed- 
fellows. 

Working closely with Mankiewicz, Troy headed up 
efforts to “destabilize” the Lindsay effort. Aides were 
flown to Florida, where they concentrated on reminding 
transplanted New Yorkers about the horrors that Lindsay 
had wreaked on the Big Apple. For example they hired a 
small plane to cruise up and down Miami Beach, towing a 
banner with the message: “Lindsay means Tsouris.” For 
the Gentiles who may not have understood, another plane 
towed a second banner: “And Tsouris means Trouble.” At 
the same time Tuck had a band of volunteers whose job it 
was to wave embarrassing signs at Lindsay rallies and to 
heckle the mayor. Tuck’s minions even infiltrated legitimate 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 321 

press conferences to ask Lindsay about New York’s prob- 
lems. 

Mankiewicz was particularly proud of one such con- 
ference. It was in fact the big one called by Lindsay to 
announce his official entry into Florida’s primary. The Mc- 
Governites tried to think of a question that would surely 
fluster the mayor. “We came up with it, and we got lucky,” 
wrote Mankiewicz. The McGovern infiltrator was the first 
one recognized by Lindsay. And as three network and five 
local cameras zeroed in, the planted tormentor asked, 
“Mayor Lindsay, if you are elected President, how would 
you change U.S. policy toward Mexico?” 

His Honor was noticeably rattled. As Mankiewicz later 
wrote, “The puzzled look on Lindsay’s face made it all 
worthwhile.” 

Under Tuck’s guidance the McGovern forces also played 
tricks on Senator Muskie, who was contesting in the 
primary. Muskie had once told questioners that he would 
not take a Black man as his runningmate since that would 
guarantee his defeat. So Tuck arranged for Muskie to be 
constantly needled about why he didn’t think a Black man 
was qualified for high office. 

Muskie, then considered the front-runner, was a major 
target of the McGovernites. And Mankiewicz still chortles 
over the practical joke they had planned for the Maine 
Democrat. Muskie had been scheduled to address an AFL- 
CIO picnic in Alameda County, California. It happened 
that Democratic County Chairman William Lockyer was 
also the McGovern coordinator for northern California. As 
chairman, Lockyer was asked to arrange to get Muskie 
from the airport to the picnic grounds. According to 
Mankiewicz, Lockyer rented a long black limousine and 
arranged for a Black chauffeur, in full livery, who was 
prepared to bow when he opened the door for Muskie. “I 
added the suggestion that he be prevailed upon to tug once 
or twice at his forelock as the news cameras zeroed in,” 
wrote Mankiewicz. But when the candidate came off the 
plane, he quickly sized up the situation and arranged to be 
taken away in a more modest automobile. If the McGov- 
ernites had pulled it off, says Mankiewicz, it “would 
have been the great political stunt of the campaign.” 

Why all this harassment? Explained McGovern’s research 
director Ted Van Dyk: “Our tactics were simple: challenge 



322 VICTOR LASKY 

Muskie to debate; crowd his famous temper; have Mc- 
Govern supporters and signs present at all his rallies; ques- 
tion his late-blooming conversion to the peace movement; 
encourage him to spread himself too thin among the many 
primary states; outorganize him in states where we had a 
chance. It was, in [Pat] Buchanan’s phrase, sometimes ‘po- 
litical hardball.’ ” 

Of course Muskie’s “famous temper” finally got the bet- 
ter of him. Who could ever forget the extraordinary scene 
when the Maine senator lost control of his emotions while 
standing in front of the offices of the Manchester Union- 
Leader in New Hampshire? There was Muskie bare- 
headed in the snow, tears streaming down his face, as he 
denounced publisher William Loeb as a “liar” and a “gut- 
less coward” for having attacked his wife. Actually what 
the Union-Leader had done was to reprint an interview 
with Mrs. Muskie by a reporter from Women’s Wear Daily, 
which in turn had been reproduced by Newsweek, a 
magazine published by the Washington Post Company. 

The Union-Leader had also published what appeared 
to be a spurious letter which claimed that Muskie, while in 
Florida, had laughed at a description of French-Canadians 
— of whom there are many in New Hampshire — as “Can- 
nocks.” The word actually is “Canucks” and it is con- 
sidered offensive. At any rate Muskie couldn’t contain him- 
self. “I was just goddamned mad and choked up over my 
anger,” he said later. But the episode did dramatize certain 
disabling personal weaknesses. And that meant the end of 
Muskie’s front-running candidacy.* 

Who was responsible for the “Canuck” letter? Conven- 
tional wisdom suggests that the Nixon “dirty tricks” opera- 
tion may have done the job. But no concrete evidence 
to that effect was ever produced, despite exhaustive inves- 
tigative effort by both the Ervin Committee and the media. 
And no one ever asked who benefited most directly from 
the episode. It was, of course, George McGovern. 

♦Ironically during the 1968 campaign Muskie had frequently alluded 
to Nixon’s emotional state. Before one campaign audience Muskie 
declared, “You remember that press conference when he broke down 
completely under pressure’’ (referring to the famous 1962 meeting 
with newsmen). “If he can’t take that kind of pressure, how’s he 
going to take the pressure of being President?’’ Muskie asked. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 323 

Nevertheless as John Roche has observed, “the Muskie 
development was sheer political luck; it could never have 
been predicted.” 

Meanwhile Segretti was also dreaming up “political 
stunts,” most of them, not much different from what the 
McGovernites had been doing. The Republican worker, 
however, concentrated on manufacturing and distributing 
phony leaflets. Hundreds of copies of one of them, read- 
ing: “If you like Hitler, you’ll love Wallace,” were slipped 
under the windshield wipers of cars parked at a rally for 
the Alabama governor in St. Petersburg, Florida. Other 
leaflets signed “Mothers for Muskie” advocated “more bus- 
ing” for schoolchildren at a time when the issue was most 
controversial. Segretti eventually came a cropper with a 
letter duplicated on “Citizens for Muskie” stationery which 
purportedly gave the “facts” concerning bizarre sexual con- 
duct and excessive drinking on the part of Senators Hum- 
phrey and Jackson. “I came back from two, three glasses 
of wine at the local pub and wrote it off the top of my 
head,” Segretti later said. “It wasn’t done for anybody to 
believe in the damned thing. It was intended to be out- 
rageous. I didn’t expect anyone to believe it.” Nevertheless, 
ludicrous as it was, the letter resulted in Segretti being 
charged with distributing illegal campaign literature.* 

In New Hampshire when news of these pranks spread 
through McGovern’s primary headquarters, “there was 
mixed reaction — laughter, of course, but also nervousness,” 
wrote Kristi Witker, Mankiewicz’s deputy press secre- 
tary.** “Who was doing these things? Was it Humphrey, 
Jackson, Wallace, or us?” Kristi was not too happy about 
the idea of McGovernites putting out such material: 

*The use of sexual innuendo against Nixon became standard prac- 
tice in The Village Voice. Absolutely phony stories were published 
regarding the President and his friends. One reader, Mary Gallagher, 
protested in a letter published in the November 1, 1973 issue: 
“Sexual guesswork about Nixon and his coterie ... is a smear 
tactic at least as shoddy as the Segretti letters used against Muskie 
in the Florida primary. . . .” 

**Miss Witker’s recollections of the McGovern campagin are con- 
tained in a very amusing book entitled How to Lose Everything in 
Politics ( Except Massachusetts ) (New York: Mason & Lipscomb, 
1974). 



324 



VICTOR LASKY 



There were others at our campaign office, though, 
who thought a little political sabotage a good thing 
and who were quick to take credit for the work itself 
or at least some prior knowledge of it. Several cam- 
paign workers admitted in amplified tones, that al- 
though they couldn’t go into it, they knew our cam- 
paign had a spy “very high up” in the Muskie cam- 
paign who had been helpful in “liberating” some key 
documents as well as coordinating some “unfortunate 
events.” It all pointed to Dick Tuck. . . . 

But Witker didn’t believe Tuck had been working inside 
the Muskie operation. For one thing he was too well 
known, “and he was also prominently in evidence at the 
McGovern press suite bar. Perhaps he was coordinator of 
the unfortunate events. But that didn’t seem likely either, 
because only one of these events had the Dick Tuck 
touch” — that was when guests at the opening of Muskie’s 
New Hampshire headquarters looked down at the bottom 
of their coffee cups to read: “McGovern for President.” 

That the McGovernites were interested in obtaining con- 
fidential intelligence from inside the camps' of their po- 
litical adversaries was also made perfectly clear by Man- 
kiewicz. Thus Mankiewicz tells how one of his subordi- 
nates, Yancey Martin, began collecting stories about how 
much money the Lindsay campaign was paying local Black 
politicians in Florida, ostensibly for “organization work.” 
The implication was that the payments were actually bribes. 
When Martin “had a few of the stories nailed down,” 
writes Mankiewicz, “we made the story public. It annoyed 
the Black leaders who. had not been paid — or who had not 
been paid enough — and couldn’t have helped very much 
with those Floridians who weren’t yet sure that Blacks 
should even vote, let alone be organized.” In other words 
the McGovernites — despite their oft-expressed liberalism — 
did not mind catering to the racism of some Floridians. 

There was apparently even one Liddy-type operation in- 
dulged in by the McGovernites. From a favorable April 
25, 1972, article in the Wall Street Journal : “It’s some- 
times hard for McGovern workers to get hold of [Dem- 
ocratic] party lists. In Wichita, a local party leader refused 
to allow the lists to be photocopied; but McGovern work- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 325 

ers managed to smuggle out the lists at night and copy 
them.” Was a break-in in the dark of night involved? 

The McGovernites did receive “one piece of political in- 
telligence from within the Humphrey camp” which, ac- 
cording to Mankiewicz, turned out to be worthless. “A few 
weeks before the primary election, someone purporting to 
be a Humphrey ‘insider’ told us that a private plane at the 
Burbank airport was at the disposal of the candidate and 
that he would fly in it to Las Vegas to pick up a substantial 
cash contribution to his campagin. The informant even 
gave us the plane’s registration number. There was a plane 
at Burbank with this number, and there it stayed through- 
out the campaign. . . The point is that the McGov- 
ernites did check the story out, obviously hoping somehow 
to embarrass Hubert Humphrey by linking him to shady 
characters in Las Vegas. 

Somehow the story managed to leak out. And one of 
those who heard it was none other than Dr. Hunter S. 
Thompson of Rolling Stone , the affluent organ of the 
Counter-Culture. Since the story was second-hand by the 
time it got to him, he decided to check it out. Finally, as 
he explained in his book,* Dr. Thompson decided, “for 
reasons better left unexplained, at this point — that the 
only two people even half-likely to know anything about 
such a bizarre story were Mankiewicz and Dick Tuck.” 
Unable to raise Tuck on the horn, Thompson managed to 
trap Mankiewicz outside the McGovern press room in 
Beverly Hills. He told Mankiewicz what he had learned. 
“What can you tell me about it?” he asked. 

“Nothing,” said Mankiewicz. Then, as an afterthought, 
“When’s your next issue coming out?” 

“Thursday.” 

“Before the election?” 

“Yeah, and so far I don’t have anything worth a shit to 
write about — but this thing sounds interesting.” 

Mankiewicz nodded, then shook his head. “Listen,” he 
said. “You could cause a lot of trouble for us by printing 
a think like that. They’d know where it came from, and 
they’d jerk our man right out.” 

“What man?” 



*Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail * 72 . (San Francisco: 
Straight Arrow Books, 1973). 



326 



VICTOR LASKY 



Mankiewicz did not say. But the implication is obvious. 
The McGovernites had a man planted inside the Humphrey 
organization — the “insider,” as Mankiewicz described him 
— who was feeding them juicy tidbits about a feared po- 
litical opponent.* 

Later on the McGovernites sought to obtain intelligence 
on Nixon. According to Mankiewicz, he was told by 
“guarded telephone callers” at least four or five times that 
the shah of Iran had made a secret one million dollar con- 
tribution to the Nixon campaign on the occasion of the 
presidential visit to Teheran in May of 1972. But Man- 
kiewicz said his people did not raise the charge because 
“we were never able to produce even a trace of support- 
ing evidence.” Not for lack of trying, however. The point 
is that the McGovernites were not adverse to digging up 
dirt about opponents. Which was one reason why Walter 
Sheridan, who had headed up Robert F. Kennedy’s “Get 
Hoffa” investigative squad, was hired. Among other things, 
according to Mankiewicz, Sheridan was assigned to per- 
form background checks on members of the Democrats for 
Nixon group headed by John B. Connally. The idea was 
to determine whether any of them had legal problems with 
the Justice Department. 

There was even a plan to plant spies aboard the Re- 
publican campaign planes. During the Ervin hearings GOP 
investigators produced a sworn affidavit by Richard M. 
Cohen, an associate producer for ABC-TV, who said a 
McGovern campaign"official had made the proposal. “The 
primary purpose of the project was to convey information 
from public statements rapidly to the McGovern head- 
quarters and a secondary function would be to relate em- 
barrassing incidents which might occur” on the campaign 
planes of President Nixon and Vice President Agnew. 
In his affidavit Cohen said it was Ted Van Dyk who sug- 
gested the project and had tentatively agreed to pay him 
a salary of $150 a week. Van Dyk confirmed the story. 
The McGovern research director said that he had hoped 
“we might catch the Vice President in another ‘fat Jap’- 
type remark.” But Van Dyk and Mankiewicz decided to 

*The Humphrey story can be found in Fear and Loathing. It is an 
extraordinary book. Where else could you read about Thompson’s 
encounter with McGovern at a urinal in a New Hampshire men’s 
room. “How’s it going, Senator?” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 327 

scrap the plan after finance director Henry Kimelman ob- 
jected to it on financial grounds. 

The McGovernites did not hesitate to use rough tactics 
against Nixon, according to sworn testimony taken in the 
final hours of the Ervin hearings. For example Fred 
Taugher, who had been the Southern California cam- 
paign coordinator for the Democratic candidate, acknowl- 
edged that he had permitted persons planning an antiwar 
demonstration against the President to use McGovern 
phones for two days to round up support for their pro- 
test. According to Taugher, the use of the phones was also 
approved by Richard Steams, the McGovern coordinator 
for the Western states. Leaflets advertising the anti-Nixon 
rally were also permitted to be placed in about 100 Mc- 
Govern storefront offices around Los Angeles. The rally, 
a noisy one, resulted in the arrest of three people. 

The Watergate Committee, in proceedings barely re- 
ported by the media, also heard testimony about the dis- 
ruption of a Nixon rally in Fresno, California, by members 
of the United Farm Workers, a union whose vote-registra- 
tion drive had been subsidized to the tune of $52,000 by 
the McGovern campaign. And there were witnesses who 
told of scurrilous anti-Nixon literature distributed 
throughout the country. A Los Angeles student, Michael 
Heller, testified about a pamphlet passed out in Jewish 
neighborhoods in Los Angeles which stated, “Nixon is 
Treyf,” that is, unclean. One line asserted: “Nixon brings 
the ovens to the people rather than the people to the 
ovens, an apparent effort to link the President’s Vietnam 
policies with the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis. 
According to Heller, the pamphlet was passed out by 
McGovern workers. The final witness was Jeremiah Sulli- 
van, a Boston police superintendent, who described a dem- 
onstration that occurred outside a fund-raising dinner in 
Boston attended by Mrs. Nixon. Sullivan said the demon- 
stration resulted in about twenty arrests and injuries to 
nine policemen, as well as considerable damage to prop- 
erty. 

But the majority Democrats on the Ervin Committee, 
like the media, were totally disinterested in any of these 
revelations. So in order to save the committee the time it 
would take to present first-person testimony, Senator 
Baker submitted about forty affidavits for the record, most 



328 



VICTOR LASKY 



of which concerned violence, property destruction, heck- 
ling, and disruption committed against Republicans and 
Nixon reelection offices during the 1972 campaign. 

One affidavit was from Dr. John Lungren, Nixon’s per- 
sonal physician, who described a break-in at his Long 
Beach, California, office discovered on September 21, 1972. 
Lungren said that Nixon’s medical records “were strewn 
about the floor” and had apparently been examined and 
perhaps photographed by intruders, who disturbed noth- 
ing else. No arrests were ever made in the break-in, he 
said. No interest was shown in what occurred in the 
Lungren office by either Senator Ervin or Senator Weicker, 
both of whom, of course, had been up in arms about the 
break-in at the Ellsberg psychiatrist’s office. The Lungren 
episode was quickly forgotten. 

Of course none of these dirty tricks did much to prevent 
Nixon’s overwhelming victory at the polls. And likewise 
the Nixonite dirty tricks did little more than annoy and 
harass the Democrats. Some of the pranks were indeed 
gamey; but others were as remarkably inventive and funny 
as any dreamed up by the irrepressible Dick Tuck. For 
sheer whimsy there was the disruption of a Muskie fund- 
raising dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 17, 
1972. Segretti and two assistants ordered a $300 supply 
of liquor; a $50 floral arrangement; goodies from the 
Watergate pastry shop; and 200 pizzas. Two magicians 
arrived, one having flown in from the Virgin Islands, to 
perform — as they said — “for the children.” Also invited 
were a dozen or so African diplomats who arrived, ap- 
propriately dressed in national costume, in chauffeur- 
driven limousines, the bills for which were submitted to 
the Muskie people. But it could have been worse. As 
Segretti later testified, “We also made inquiries about rent- 
ing an elephant, but were unable to make the necessary 
arrangements.” 

Testifying before the Ervin Committee, H. R. Halde- 
man told how the Segretti operation came about. He said 
that presidential aides Dwight Chapin and Gordon 
Strachan had come up with the idea of hiring a “Dick 
Tuck for our side,” that is, setting up someone to function 
independently of the campaign organization in order to 
generate the same kind of activities carried out by the 
Democratic prankster whose “basic stock in trade was 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 329 

embarrassing Republican candidates.” Haldeman added: 
“The repertoire of the political prankster includes such 
activities as printing up embarrassing signs for the op- 
ponent, posing in trainman’s clothes and waving the cam- 
paign train out of the station, placing an agent on the op- 
ponent’s campaign train to produce witty newsletters mock- 
ing the candidates, distributing opposition signs at rallies 
for use by members of the crowd, encouraging band lead- 
ers to play rival songs at rallies and so forth.” In short the 
kind of activities for which Dick Tuck had received enor- 
mous — and friendly — press attention. 

Chapin and Strachan informed Haldeman that they had 
someone in mind, Donald Segretti, an old chum from 
USC who was about to leave army service. 

Nixon had not been informed of the Segretti operation. 
Meeting with Dean on February 28, 1973, the President 
referred to the prankster as “such a dumb figure, I don’t 
see how our boys could have gone for him.” 

“But nevertheless,” he went on, “they did. It was really 
juvenile! But, what the hell did he do? What in the (char- 
acterization deleted) did he do? Shouldn’t we be trying to 
get intelligence? Weren’t they trying to get intelligence 
from us?” 

“Absolutely!” replied Dean. 

The President observed that his rallies had been punc- 
tuated by violence. “They threw rocks, ran demonstrations, 
shouted, cut the sound system, and let the tear gas in at 
night. What the hell is that all about? Did we do that?” 

Dean noted that “McGovern had Dick Tuck on his pay- 
roll, and Dick Tuck was down in Texas when you were 
down at the Connally ranch and set up to do a prank down 
there. But it never came off.”* 

“What did Segretti do that came off?” the President 
said. 

“He did some humorous things. For example, there 
would be a fund-raising dinner, and he hired Wayne the 
Wizard to fly in from the Virgin Islands to perform a magic 

*Tuck claimed he had suggested that “when Nixon visited John 
Connally at his ranch in Texas, we should have a Brinks armored 
truck roll in saying they had come to collect the money, and have 
it followed by a laundry truck with Mexican license plates.” The 
pointed reminder of Mexican “laundering” of Nixon campaign funds 
was not approved, according to Tuck. 



330 



VICTOR LASKY 



show. He sent invitations to all the black diplomats and 
sent limousines out to have them picked up, and they all 
showed up and they hadn’t been invited. He had four hun- 
dred pizzas sent to another — ” 

“What the hell!” the President broke in. “Pranks! Tuck 
did all those things in 1960, and all the rest.” 

“I think we can keep the Segretti stuff in perspective 
because it is not that bad. Chapin’s involvement is not that 
deep. He was the catalyst, and that is about the extent of 
it.” 

“Sure,” said the President, “he knew him and recom- 
mended him.” 

“That’s right.” 

“But he didn’t run him,” the President noted. “He was 
too busy with us.” 

Segretti’s appearance before the Ervin Committee came 
after senior staff members had spent most of the summer 
of 1973 touting the committee’s forthcoming exploration 
of dirty tricks. That phase of the investigation would be 
even more explosive than the probe of the actual break-in, 
it was said. As David E. Rosenbaum reported in The New 
York Times , the committee’s lawyers claimed privately 
that the testimony would show that the Republicans had 
systematically sabotaged the campaigns of the various 
candidates for the nomination and had thus engineered 
the nomination of McGovern, supposedly the weakest pos- 
sible opponent for Nixon. 

Finally, after the big buildup, Segretti took the witness 
chair on October 3, 1973. A tiny man, he stood 5 feet 4, 
had a moon face and a teenager’s voice. Nevertheless ap- 
pearances could have been deceiving. After all this was the 
man whom Woodward and Bernstein had exposed a year 
before in the Washington Post as the alleged Guy Fawkes 
of the 1972 campaign, the man who had conducted “a 
massive campaign of political spying and sabotage.” The 
next day Segretti’s partners-in-pranks, Martin Kelly and 
Robert Benz, testified. Kelly told the committee how he 
released two white mice and a finch in a room where 
Muskie was holding a press conference. He also hired a 
girl for $20 to run naked, shouting: “I love Ed Muskie!” 
in front of the senator’s hotel room in Gainesville, Florida. 
About the most serious thing Segretti confessed to was 
sending out that phony letter on Muskie stationery accus- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 331 

ing Humphrey and Jackson of totally fictitious sexual mis- 
conduct. 

“When they had finished their testimony,” reported 
Rosenbaum, “it was apparent that what they had done was 
tasteless, at times vicious, for the most part humorless and 
probably unprecedented in American Presidential cam- 
paigns. But it was equally clear that their efforts had made 
no difference in the outcome of the Democrats’ nominating 
procedure. . . .” 

In other words the “massive campaign of political spy- 
ing and sabotage,” as Woodward and Bernstein had de- 
scribed Segretti’s activities, turned out to be journalistic 
hype. All the Ervin Committee could turn up in its “dirty 
tricks” phase were largely pranks of a collegiate variety; 
and while no doubt they were all annoying to the candidates 
and their staffs, they hardly imperiled — as James Reston 
once lugubriously put it — the “fragile process” of democ- 
racy. 

Still the myth persists that the Nixon people helped 
nominate McGovern, which McGovern himself described 
as “nonsense.” The truth is that the South Dakotan won 
the nomination fair and square, by doing better than most 
party pols had expected in the primaries, and by attracting 
a tremendous number of young people to his banner 
because of his position on Vietnam and other social issues. 

As for the impact of dirty tricks, McGovern told 
Elizabeth Drew in a television interview that “added all 
together,” they “probably didn’t influence the primaries 
very much. They might have cost a few hundred votes at 
some point.” 

Of course neither Ms. Drew nor any other interviewer 
ever asked McGovern about the dirty tricks performed 
in his campaign. 

Tuck’s presence was felt at the 1972 Republican Con- 
vention in Miami Beach. There he published a daily four- 
page newspaper called Reliable Source . His penchant was 
printing confidential memoranda written by White House 
personnel holed up at the Doral Hotel under tight se- 
curity. How Tuck got these documents he has never ex- 
plained. But he did obtain what he called a “security” 
memo, which had been sent to White House staffers, telling 
them how to use the shredders and bum bags. And he 
did publish the private phone numbers of all Nixon cam- 



332 



VICTOR LASKY 



paign officials. And it was Tuck, as Pat Buchanan re- 
called with a chuckle before the Ervin Committee, who 
sent a group of pregnant Black women to parade outside 
Nixon headquarters in Miami Beach with signs reading 
“Nixon’s the One.” 

But Tuck never did get the opportunity to reveal the 
tricks of his trade. Though interviewed by committee in- 
vestigators in September 1973, it was decided by the 
Democratic majority that Tuck should not be called as a 
witness because most of his mischief was perpetrated prior 
to the 1972 campaign — the focus of the committee’s man- 
date. One staff member who participated in the interroga- 
tion was quoted as describing Tuck as “scared silly.” And 
Tuck did not quarrel with that description, saying, “I 
won’t kid you — I’m not dying to appear.” He never did. 

Once McGovern was nominated, the dirty tricks were 
few and far between. However, Frank Mankiewicz did tell 
of a few in his appearance before the Ervin Committee. 
He claimed that just before a major McGovern rally in 
Los Angeles, “every radio station in the city was called 
by someone purporting to be from the McGovern cam- 
paign, saying the rally had been cancelled. That cost us a 
full house.” And he also recalled that “an insulting tele- 
phone call was placed to AFL-CIO President George 
Meany in June 1972 by someone masquerading as the 
McGovern campaign manager, Gary Hart. How much of 
Mr. Meany’s hostility to Senator McGovern’s campaign 
can be attributed to this or other such incidents is diffi- 
cult to measure.” 

Then in September 1972 Walter Cronkite called “to ask 
if I had telephoned him the day before,” Mankiewicz con- 
tinued. “I said no, I had not. He said that he’d had a very 
curious call from someone claiming to be me who said, 
‘You know, Walter, we have this arrangement where Mc- 
Govern gets eighty percent of the coverage and Nixon only 
twenty percent and I just want you to know I think it’s 
working very well.’ Cronkite speculated the caller might 
have hoped he would confirm the existence of some such 
arrangement. Cronkite thought perhaps he was being set 
up,” said Mankiewicz. 

Exactly who was responsible for these pranks was never 
learned, but every effort was made to place the blame on 
the Nixonites. There were even allegations that the efforts 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 333 

of pro-McGovern homosexuals were generated to bedevil 
the Democratic campaign. One such allegation was pub- 
lished in the Washington Star in an article by John Fialka, 
entitled “Odd Events Dogged McGovern,” which stated 
that “people presenting themselves as spokesmen for homo- 
sexual groups handed out flyers saying ‘Gays for Mc- 
Govern* ” — the implication being that the organization 
might have been set up to embarrass the Democratic 
candidate. 

But as Robert W. Corbett pointed out in a letter to the 
Star, Gays for McGovern was a “perfectly legitimate cam- 
paign group, as was Dentists for McGovern or Black 
Americans for McGovern.” Corbett, who had been a 
salaried district coordinator for McGovern, and prior to 
that an organizer of “gay” groups throughout New York 
City, said that Gays for McGovern was organized to do 
what the name implied — namely, to campaign for Mc- 
Govern in the gay community. “Many noted gay leaders 
lent their names to this group. It operated with campaign 
funds from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. 
In New York State, the Walt Whitman Democratic Club 
paid the bill for the ‘Gays for McGovern* leaflet.” 

It is true the Nixonites kept close tabs on what Mc- 
Govern and his people were doing during the campaign. 
They set up an “attack group,” composed of White House 
and CRP aides, to keep on top of what the Democratic 
candidate was saying with the idea of spotting and making 
the most of his mistakes and weaknesses. Though the “at- 
tack group” was not highly visible, it was no secret. In 
fact John Osborne wrote about it at length toward the 
end of the campaign, in the October 21, 1972, issue of 
The New Republic. 

“The original assignment of the attack group was to 
get George McGovern down,” said Osborne. 

Now it is to keep him down. Its visible way of doing 
this is to track his every word and action, partly from 
press reports and partly from the personal and more or 
less covert observation that occurs in all national po- 
litical campaigns. . . . Nixon observers are present 
at every McGovern appearance just as — or so the 
Nixonites assume — McGovern observers are at every 
Nixon and Nixon surrogate performance. The Nixon 



334 



VICTOR LASKY 



tacticians have arranged, as they assume their Mc- 
Govern counterparts have, to have friendly watchers 
and informants in newspaper offices, television and 
radio studios and, where and as they can manage 
it, among the opponent’s workers and supporters at 
campaign centers from the national headquarters 
down to precincts. 

This is standard campaign procedure, within ac- 
cepted political norms. 

Despite the intensive exposure of dirty tricks by the 
Senate and the media, such practices were continued in, 
of all places, the Congress. The victims this time were 
conservatives of both parties, who were embarrassed by 
bogus remarks inserted in their names in the Congressional 
Record . True, an investigation was launched by the FBI to 
determine who was responsible for the pranks, but what 
was surprising was that the media which was so loud about 
hunting down Donald Segretti now had so little to say. 

The victims were Congressmen Earl R. Landgrebe of 
Indiana, John M. Ashbrook of Ohio, and Otto E. Passman 
of Louisiana. The false statement inserted in the Record 
in Landgrebe’s name dealt with Nixon’s resignation. In an 
irreverent takeoff on Nixon’s farewell address to his White 
House staff, the insertion said: “Mr. Speaker, former 
President Nixon’s mother was a saint, by his own admis- 
sion . . . but he omitted mention of his own saintly 
qualities in that wonderful and touching address.” Land- 
grebe, who had been a stout defender of Nixon, was also 
quoted as saying: “As you know, I was a faithful sup- 
porter of our embattled President to the bitter, sour end, 
stating even that I would be shot with him if necessary. 
Many wonderful people wrote me recommending this 
course.” The forged speech had this to say about the 
Watergate break-in: “Who, after all, he was [sic] bugging 
at the DNC? Leftist fellow-travelers, Mr. Speaker. By God, 
I should hope he listened closely.” The material, entitled 
“Rectifying the Untimely Removal of President Nixon,” 
concluded by suggesting that President Ford name Nixon 
as his new Vice President, then resign himself to allow the 
former President to again take up the reins of power. 

Two pages later, in the section reserved for “extensions 
of remarks,” Ashbrook was quoted as praising the new 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 335 

military regime governing Chile. “Mr. Speaker,” the 
Ohioan was quoted, “I have been disgusted and dis- 
mayed by the ranting of the pink fellow-travelers and libral 
[sic] dupes in our great Nation against the government 
of our military allies in the beleaguered land of Chile.” 

Both Landgrebe and Ashbrook protested the forgeries 
and Speaker Albert said he viewed the matter “with 
extreme concern.” The FBI investigated and came up with 
nothing, Albert later informed Ashbrook. Meanwhile Con- 
gressman Michael J. Harrington acknowledged that a sep- 
arate incident involving another bogus statement attributed 
to Congressman Passman, the pro-Nixon Democrat from 
Louisiana, had been perpetrated by a few college students 
working as summer interns in the Harrington office. Aides 
of Harrington, one of the leading House liberals, called 
Passman to apologize for what were described as “pro- 
fane” remarks. Passman took a philosophic attitude toward 
the episode. He told Harrington’s aides, “Don’t be too hard 
on the young men who did it.” 

Segretti, who apologized personally to Senators Jackson 
and Humphrey for the dirty trick he played on them, was 
not as lucky. Sentenced to six months in the slammer, he 
served four and a half months of that term. 

Another story of political shenanigans which broke after 
the 1972 election concerned an illegitimate child born in 
Fort Wayne, Indiana. The 1941 birth certificate listed the 
father as “George S. McGovern of Mitchell, South Da- 
kota.” The story surfaced in the summer of 1973, after 
someone leaked a memo purportedly from H. R. Halde- 
man proposing that the illegitimate child story be given to 
the press. Apparently someone else had better sense, for 
the story never came out during the campaign. 

The Washington Post , however, rectified that. On August 
2, 1973, the Watergate-obsessed daily let the world know 
of the Haldeman memo and that the senator’s name was 
on the birth record. The mother, though conceding she had 
known McGovern briefly, denied the senator was the 
father. After that the story was generally forgotten. 

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel kept after it however, 
and not for reasons of prurience. As editor Davis told 
Ron Rosenbaum of The Village Voice , he didn’t give a 
damn whether McGovern had an illegitimate child or not, 
“although I was convinced he did. What I wanted to know 



336 



VICTOR LASKY 



was who had expunged the public record of the copy of 
the birth certificate at the Board of Health” during the 
1972 campaign. 

In other words a cover-up. 

According to Davis, the father’s name was “clumsily 
eradicated” from the document. And that infuriated Davis. 
“I’m concerned about preserving the purity of the public 
record,” he said. “If you don’t have that, then where the 
hell are you?” 

Davis had to get a court order to examine the birth 
certificate. When he discovered the mutilation, he sought 
to examine the original copy maintained in Indianapolis. 
Refused permission, he took the matter to the State Su- 
preme Court. There he lost. 

“The Nixon contention,” commented Rosenbaum, “that 
the press has one standard for him and another one for 
the conduct of his opponents is much ridiculed in the press. 
But imagine if it was rumored that ‘Richard M. Nixon of 
Whittier, California’ was the name clumsily eradicated 
from the Fort Wayne copy of the birth certificate. People 
would be knocking down the doors of the Indiana State 
Board of Health to document the ‘coverup scheme.’ All 
in the interest of preserving the public record, of course.” 






TWENTY-ONE 



Throughout the 1972 campaign there was anguish in the 
McGovern camp over what appeared to be massive in- 
difference on the part of the electorate toward what was 
then being described as the Watergate bugging case. This 
despite numerous — and frantic — efforts on the part of 
McGovern and runningmate R. Sargent Shriver to make 
the case the major issue of the election. Again and again 
Senator McGovern made the most stinging attacks on the 
President personally, calling him a “bungling, bugging 
burglar,” and likening him to Hitler. 

Still the opinion polls indicated that most of the public 
couldn’t have cared less. And it wasn’t because the Ameri- 
can people weren’t informed. Two weeks before the elec- 
tion Crosby S. Noyes, writing in the Washington Star , sug- 
gested that 

it may be that many people see no great difference 
between the bugging of Democratic National Com- 
mittee headquarters and the systematic pilfering of 
secret documents from a whole series of federal 
agencies that has become so fashionable in recent 
years. ... Far more real political damage has been 
done to this and previous Administrations by these 
breaches of security than by anything that happened 
at the Democratic headquarters. 

There was of course Daniel Ellsberg, then under in- 
dictment on a number of counts involving the theft of 
government property in the case of the Pentagon Papers. 
Ellsberg conceded he was aware of the possibility of going 
to jail for his actions. But for him, breaking the law was a 
matter of political conscience. In the upside-down world of 
Watergate, Ellsberg became an heroic figure to a large 



338 



Victor lasky 



number of people and what he did was widely regarded 
as a public service.* 

“But where does one draw the line between theft in the 
public service and plain theft?” asked Noyes. “What is the 
real difference between agents and informants who turn 
over reams of secret Government documents to sym- 
pathetic newspapers and columnists and a crew that tries 
to tap the phones and read the mail of the political opposi- 
tion?” 

Then, too, there was the feeling among many that try- 
ing to find out what the opposition was doing had long 
been part of the American political scene. “Which,” wrote 
Noyes, “may be why the Watergate affair has had so little 
impact in spite of the publicity it has received and why 
it seems unlikely to affect the result of the election in the 
long run.” And as it turned out, despite Watergate, the 
American people went to the polls and voted overwhelm- 
ingly for Nixon.** 

The Watergate affair probably would have run its course 
had it not been for the violations of the rights of the 
seven defendants at the break-in trial by a federal jurist 
whose prior judicial conduct had long aroused the ire of 
all true civil libertarians. And a few did protest Judge John 
Sirica’s handling — or mishandling— of the case. “It seems 
ironic,” wrote Joseph Rauh, Jr., former national chair- 
men of Americans for Democratic Action, “that those 
most opposed to Mr. Nixon’s lifetime espousal of ends 
justifying means should now make a hero of a judge who 
practiced this formula to the detriment of a fair trial for 
the Watergate Seven.” 

The Washingtonian , a monthly of liberal leanings, had a 
similar analysis. Listing judges who should be removed 
from the bench, the magazine prominently included Judge 
Sirica, citing his “careless legal errors, his short temper, 

♦“Poor Liddy & Hunt” wrote Pat Buchanan on the Op-Ed page 
of The New York Times, August 3, 1973, “if only, like Ellsberg, they 
had dropped their stolen papers off at the national desk of The 
New York Times, instead of the campaign desk of Jeb Magruder, 
they might be sharing the Pulitzer Prize.” 

** Asked about Watergate after the election, Senator Tom Eagleton— 
McGovern’s original runningmate — replied, “All political parties spy 
on one another; the Republicans got caught at it.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 339 

his inattentiveness to court proceedings, his misguided view 
of the purpose of judicial power, his lack of compassion 
for his fellow human beings, and strange as it now seems, 
his lack of interest in the truth.” In the Watergate case 
Sirica “badgered, accused, and castigated witnesses, prose- 
cutors and defense lawyers. He read transcripts of confi- 
dential bench conferences to the jury. He used the threat of 
lengthy sentences to force defendants into abandoning 
their constitutional rights. He turned the trial into an in- 
quisition, and justice into a charade.” 

Five of the original defendants had pleaded guilty to 
burglary. The other two had stood trial and were convicted. 
Telling them that they knew more about the case than they 
had told, Sirica provisionally meted out sentences of thirty- 
five to forty years. If they cooperated and confessed all, 
he said he would reconsider the sentences. Not for nothing 
was Sirica known as “Maximum John.” 

Since then Sirica has basked in the adulation of much 
of the media. The fact that “Maximum John” had once 
been a close friend of Joseph R. McCarthy — and an ardent 
espouser of the late senator’s views — did not deter Mary 
McGrory from gushing over “the immigrant’s son who . . . 
pried up the rock to show the maggots and worms under- 
neath.” In fact Ms. McGrory urged in her column that the 
J. Edgar Hoover Building be leveled “with our bare hands, 
if necessary” and the ground made into a park named 
after “Judge John J. Sirica, the man to whom we owe our 
liberty, if we still have any.” 

A few civil libertarians were appalled. Nat Hentoff of 
The Village Voice for example observed: “When most of 
those who are otherwise concerned with judicial fairness 
laud a judge for putting on the screws — or are silent — a 
dangerous precedent has been set.” 

Another surprising entry in the liberal pantheon was 
none other than Senator Ervin, who had previously led 
Southern filibusters against civil rights laws. But all that 
anti-Nigruh stuff was forgotten when the North Carolinian 
took over as chairman of the Watergate Committee. The 
liberals even forgave him his staunch opposition to the 
Equal Rights Amendment, which would grant legal parity 
to women, when he let it be known he would show Nixon 
no quarter. 



340 



VICTOR LASKY 



The Ervin Committee had its origins in the spadework 
done by staff members of Ted Kennedy’s Subcommittee on 
Administrative Practices and Procedures. This was back in 
October 1972 when James Flug, the subcommittee’s chief 
counsel, and Carmine Bellino, its chief investigator, looked 
into Donald Segretti’s contacts with the White House. 
Apparently deciding it would be best to remain behind the 
scenes, rather than be accused of a political vendetta, Ken- 
nedy played a key role in convincing Ervin to take over the 
investigation. 

But it was Majority Leader Mike Mansfield who made 
the final decision. He chose Ervin, Mansfield said, because 
he “was the only man ... on either side of the aisle who’d 
have the respect of the Senate as a whole. We could’ve got 
the fist-pounding, free-wheeling boys out there. I don’t 
know what that would have accomplished. We’re not look- 
ing for a TV melodrama. We’re looking for a good, fair, 
impartial investigation.’’ 

Which is exactly what Ervin did not provide. If ever 
there was a partisan investigation, this was it. From the 
start it was obvious that Ervin’s main purpose was to get 
the goods on Richard Nixon and his associates, and there 
were goods to get. When it came to investigating Demo- 
crats, however, there was small enthusiasm. 

It was a Democratic-controlled show from the very 
beginning. The Republicans had tried desperately to en- 
large the committee’s scope of investigation from the 1972 
campaign to those conducted in 1964 and 1968. They also 
tried to get an even break on committee representation, 
contending that otherwise the hearings would become a 
partisan witch-hunt. The majority Democrats in the Senate 
rebuffed them on both counts. 

Mansfield may not have been looking for a “TV melo- 
drama,” but the hearings were soon converted into a tele- 
vision extravaganza providing more entertainment than en- 
lightenment. But that was not Ervin’s purpose, according 
to his statement authorizing the televising of the hearings. 
Though conceding that the coverage could be prejudicial 
to the rights of the accused persons, Ervin stated f~' “It is 
more important for the American people to know the truth 
• . . than sending one or two people to jail.” Especially, the 
great constitutionalist added, because “justice has a habit 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 341 

of treading on leaden feet.” In other words lynch them — 
at least figuratively — since the courts are too slow in 
meting out the punishment they deserve. 

Likewise much of the press couldn’t have cared less 
about due process when it came to those accused in Water- 
gate. The Nixon-haters had a field day at the hearings. 
Almost maniacal to “get” the administration, some of them 
passed questions to senators interrogating witnesses, thus 
participating in, rather than reporting, the drama. Dan 
Schorr of CBS, for example, got so annoyed with the ques- 
tioning of Haldeman that he cornered Majority Counsel 
Samuel Dash to tick off a number of questions he said had 
been unanswered. The reason for such unprecedented be- 
havior was explained by Mary McGrory: “Reporters have 
been covering the story for so long they are more familiar 
with it than the Senators, and there are such gaps of in- 
formation. The reporters can’t get at it, and they hope 
the Senators can get it for them.” And few in the press 
corps were more exercised over the proceedings than Ms. 
McGrory who, Fred Thompson has noted, never smiled in 
all those months, for “hers was an all-consuming mission 
of vengeance, with every committee member graded by the 
number of verbal lashes he administered across the backs of 
White House witnesses.” Finally it occurred to the Repub- 
lican counsel that McGrory’s attitude may well have been 
colored by the fact that, alone among the major columnists, 
she had predicted victory for George McGovern in 1972. 

Thomas Collins, writing in News day, compared the 
Watergate press corps to “an army holding a strategically 
vital position. It holds the high ground, so to speak, in the 
Battle of Watergate, and its presence symbolizes the fact 
that the press has a proprietary interest in this story as it 
seldom has had before.” 

By and large, according to Collins, the reporters covering 
Watergate were “an anti-Nixon crowd” which, generally 
regarding the proceedings in the Caucus Room as show 
business or “good theater,” developed a cynical tolerance 
for the “star” value of Ervin and company. * 

In all of this the media had the active cooperation of a 
majority staff largely composed of young zealots who made 
no secret of their passionate hatred of the administration. 
Heavily funded, feeling no compunction about the ethics 



342 



VICTOR LASKY 



of leaking material, and not reined in by Ervin, they made 
a mockery of fair inquiry. As Thompson put it, “Here was 
a way for a young man on the staff to make his mark in 
history, possibly even to bring down a President.” 

Directing the staff was Samuel Dash, the chief counsel. 
Dash’s liberal credentials appeared to be in order. A Dem- 
ocrat who had supported George McGovern, he had also 
been a member of Americans for Democratic Action. A 
law professor, he had served for a time as a district attorney 
in Philadelphia. But that was back in the mid-fifties when 
Dash was a more enthusiastic supporter of wiretapping — 
much more, in fact, than either E. Howard Hunt or James 
W. McCord. “We would be powerless to protect the country 
if we couldn’t wiretap,” Dash said at the time. ‘To outlaw 
wiretapping is similar to chopping off your head to take 
care of the pimple on your nose.” After leaving the DA’s 
office. Dash signed on with the Ford Foundation to study 
wiretapping. He came away convinced that wiretapping, at 
least in the volume he himself had once encouraged, was 
not necessarily beneficial. Now he felt that the practice 
“leads to corruption ... it affects the quality of life.” 

As chief counsel Dash was quickly labeled a nebbish by 
certain members of the press who felt that, because of his 
bumbling efforts, the hearings would go nowhere. For ex- 
ample, as chief investigator of illegal electronic surveillance 
Dash hired a San Francisco private eye who it turned out 
had himself been convicted in a New York bugging case 
in 1966. The private eye was quickly let go. 

Then there was Terry Lenzner, who made no secret of 
his hatred of the Nixon administration. Lenzner had served 
briefly as head of the Office of Legal Services in the anti- 
poverty program. Following an internal dispute he was dis- 
missed by Donald Rumsfeld, the director of the Office of 
Economic Opportunity, for channeling federal anti-poverty 
dollars to such groups as the Black Panthers and the Stu- 
dents for a Democratic Society (SDS) in violation of OEO 
regulations. Previously Lenzner had been a defense counsel 
for the Berrigan brothers, the two antiwar priests who had 
been indicted for destroying federal draft records. 

Another of Dash’s investigators, Scott Armstrong, was a 
close friend of Bob Woodward of the Washington Post , 
then running exclusive stories on Watergate based on “in- 
formed sources” within the committee. Woodward had 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 343 

recommended Armstrong to Dash, after Dash had offered 
Woodward a job with the committee.* 

And, of course, there was Carmine Bellino, the aging 
investigator who had long served the Kennedys. He came 
over from Senator Kennedy’s Subcommittee on Admin- 
istrative Practices and Procedures, where he had concen- 
trated on Segretti’s contacts at the White House. 

It was with this band of zealots that the probe into 
Nixon misdeeds was launched. And from the beginning the 
Ervin Committee itself was guilty of numerous misdeeds, 
including the very kind of dirty tricks it supposedly was 
investigating. Eventually Richard Wilson enumerated ten 
general categories in investigative procedure which, he said, 
gave great concern to strict constructionists of constitution- 
al rights: 

1. Hearsay evidence was unlimited. 

2. Opinion and conclusion of witnesses involving the 
guilt, innocence and motives of second and third 
parties. 

3. Moralistic lectures based on political ideology. 

4. Invasion of privacy by demands for repentance. 

5. Preclusion of fair trial by notoriety via television. 

6. Accusation without corroboration. 

7. Bullying and ridicule of witnesses. 

8. Immunity to tell all to the TV jury but not to the 
grand jury. 

9. Repetition ad infinitum for censorious effect. 

10. Bible quoting for discrediting effect. 

“Some of the foregoing practices in the Ervin committee 
bear upon Constitutional rights of accused persons and 
others relate merely to common decency,” wrote Wilson. 
“In both areas the sky has been the limit under the Ervin 
doctrine that it is better to expose and destroy than to 
convict by due process.” 

On the other side of the ideological fence Nat Hentoff 
made the point that the Ervin hearings ought to be regarded 

"“Armstrong, who had known Woodward from their days at Yale, 
was best man at Woodward’s wedding. Later he went to work for 
Woodward and his collaborator, Carl Bernstein, as a researcher for 
their second book, The Final Days. After that he was hired by the 
Washington Post as a reporter. 



344 



VICTOR LASKY 



by his fellow liberals critically and skeptically. “Yet in the 
current celebratory anti-Nixon atmosphere, nearly all the 
criticism of what’s happening to due process comes from 
the right. The left will have its hangover when the cycle 
turns.” 

And somewhere in the middle of the ideological spec- 
trum Professor Theodore J. Lowi of Cornell University 
raised the question, “Are liberals only concerned about 
legality and justice when the cause of action affects the 
Left?” Lowi, author of The End of Liberalism, added, 
“Liberals ought to have joined in the defense of the Water- 
gate witnesses. They should have been clamoring for the 
rebuke of the Ervin Committtee and its staff.” As for Ervin 
himself, Lowi said that the senator “sounds like Congress’s 
keeper of the Constitution only because so few others are 
ready to stand up and call his Bible-bearing bluff. . . . The 
Ervin Committee seems to recognize no limits at all.” 

Rarely did the committee demonstrate its extreme par- 
tisanship more clearly than in its treatment of Richard 
Moore, special counsel to the President and a man uni- 
versally respected in and out of the White House. Moore 
was called at the suggestion of White House Counsel Fred 
Buzhardt. The purpose was for Moore, a former television 
executive of unblemished reputation, to refute John Dean. 
Dean had testified that while he had told the President all 
he knew about the break-in and cover-up on March 21, 
1973, he believed that the President was aware of the cover- 
up as early as September 15, 1972. 

Prior to his appearance Moore met privately with Len- 
zner and Thompson to go over his testimony. What he 
planned to put on the record, Moore said, was the meeting 
he had had with Dean in which the White House counsel 
had flatly told him that the President was not aware of the 
cover-up before March 21, 1973, six months after the date 
Dean had cited in his testimony. Moore also said that fol- 
lowing the March 21 meeting, Dean had said the President 
was genuinely surprised at Dean’s information. 

But the subject was not brought up the next afternoon 
Vhen Lenzner began questioning Moore in public session. 
The first question he asked was, “Do you have a recollection 
of a meeting on March 14, 1973, at 8:30 in the morning 
also attended by Mr. Kleindienst and Mr. Mitchell?” 
Moore was visibly taken aback. He had no such recol- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 345 

lection. Lenzner kept boring in. He asked a series of 
questions totally unrelated to the main issues. As Thompson 
later recalled, “It was an effective trial lawyer’s tactic: 
challenge the witness’s memory on collateral matters; if he 
does not remember those, perhaps his memory can be 
challenged on the matters at issue.” 

The next morning Thompson took over the questioning. 
By this time Moore had regained his composure, and re- 
sponded forthrightly to questions about his meeting wtih 
Dean. His testimony was not only clean, it was significant. 
He repeated what he had told Thompson and Lenzner at 
their original interview — namely, that Dean had told him 
that he was convinced the President was in the dark about 
the cover-up activities prior to March 21, 1973. 

Confirming Moore’s impression of Dean’s state of mind 
during this period was Egil Krogh, chief of the White 
House “plumbers.” Krogh, interviewed by Mike Wallace 
of CBS, said he was convinced from conversations with 
Dean that President Nixon did not know about the cover- 
up as early as Dean claimed he did. Krogh told of a two- 
hour meeting he had with the then White House counsel on 
March 20, 1973, and he quoted Dean as saying, “Bud, the 
President is being badly served. He just doesn’t know 
what’s going on.” Significantly Krogh’s testimony on this 
point had not been sought by the Ervin Committee. 

By now the Ervin Committee was routinely engaged in 
character assassination of White House witnesses. Most 
times the witnessses were too terrified to protest. One 
White House aide, speechwriter Patrick J. Buchanan, ap- 
peared at the hearings unafraid. Accused beforehand, 
through the usual leaks to the press, of being a “dirty 
tricks” strategist, Buchanan sprang from his corner at the 
opening bell and punched his inquisitors silly — with justifica- 
tion. In a prepared statement he noted that the committee 
had not granted him the elementary courtesy of notifying 
him that he would be called as a witness before the news 
was flashed over television. “Of greater concern to me, 
however, has been an apparent campaign orchestrated 
from within the committee staff, to malign my reputation 
in the public press prior to my appearance. In the hours im- 
mediately following my well-publicized invitation, there 
appeared in the Washington Post, The New York Times , 
the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune and on the national 



346 



VICTOR LASKY 



networks, separate stories all attributed to committee 
sources alleging that I was the architect of a campaign of 
political espionage or dirty tricks.” 

“Mr. Chairman,” Buchanan went on, “this cover cam- 
paign of vilification, carried on by staff members of your 
committee, is in direct violation of Rule 40 of the rules of 
procedure for the select committee. . . . Repeatedly I have 
asked of Mr. Dash and Mr. Lenzner information that they 
might have to justify such allegations. Repeatedly, they have 
denied to me that they have such documents. When I 
asked Mr. Lenzner who on the committee staff was re- 
sponsible, he responded, ‘Mr. Buchanan, you ought to 
know that you can’t believe everything you read in the 
newspapers.’ It was his joke and my reputation. So it seems 
fair to me to ask, how can this select committee set itself 
up as the ultimate arbiter of American political ethics if it 
cannot even control the character assassins within its own 
ranks?” 

When Buchanan finished, Ervin “deplored” the use of 
leaks to smear innocent people, as did Dash, but both 
professed an inability to check them. “I know of no staff 
member who has done it,” said Dash. “I have searched to 
find such staff members if there were any. We have had a 
problem like this before and I think we all know that the 
problem of leaks is one that isn’t always to be solved.” 

Buchanan proceeded to demolish the committee, standing 
up to Dash and even one-upping Ervin. When the senator 
invoked Andrew Jackson, the witness noted that President 
Jackson had been the “father of the spoils system.” De- 
claring that the Watergate break-in had been “a crime” 
and that electronic surveillance had no place in politics, 
Buchanan insisted that none of the strategems, overt or 
covert, which did have a White House imprimatur had 
exceeded the limits of time-honored political traditions. 
His only regret was that the “exaggerated metaphors” in 
his private memos (“We ought to go down to the kennels 
and turn all the dogs loose” on Senator Muskie) had be- 
come public property. * 

♦Only William Satire in his column in The New York Times noted 
the “dangerously illiberal turn” the committee had taken in ques- 
tioning Buchanan about memos dealing with political strategy. “The 
search is no longer for unethical acts that require legislative 
remedies, or for ways to ‘get to the truth’ about Watergate. . . . 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



347 



And as Buchanan pointedly reminded the committee, 
campaigns do cause some extreme rhetoric, such as Mc- 
Govern’s comparison of U.S. war policy in Indochina with 
the extermination of the Jews, and Nixon with Hitler. But, 
of course, the committee had no intention of looking into 
that. Asked what kind of political activity he advocated, 
Buchanan responded, “Anything that was not considered 
immoral, unethical, illegal — or unprecedented in previous 
Democratic campaigns.” 

With one exception the Republicans on the committee ap- 
peared to enjoy Buchanan’s performance. The exception 
was Senator Weicker, the Connecticut statesman who ex- 
pressed unhappiness that Buchanan seemed to be lumping 
pranks and hardball tactics in with the break-in as if 
there were no differences. Buchanan quickly assured the 
senator that “I did not consider Watergate a prank; it was a 
crime.” The wind out of his inquisitorial sails, Weicker 
meekly thanked Buchanan for saying so in public. 

When Buchanan left the witness table, the White House 
celebrated what one worker there called “the only day of 
the hearings I’ve really enjoyed.” And Senator Edward J. 
Gurney of Florida, the lone Nixon stalwart among the 
panel’s Republicans, proclaimed it “one of the most amus- 
ing days” of his life. The Democrats, however, were not 
that amused. Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia, char- 
acterizing the day’s proceedings an “unmitigated disaster,” 
wondered how long the committee planned to continue its 
hearings. 

Following Buchanan’s appearance, Senator James Buck- 
ley of New York sent a letter to Ervin asking him to put 
members of his staff under oath to discover who was 
leaking damaging material about prospective witnesses. 
Ervin declined to do this for a number of reasons, among 
which were his concerns that a search for leakers would 
“divert” the committee from important tasks and that it 
would hurt staff morale. Imagine Buckley’s surprise, there- 
fore, when he read in The New York Times of November 
20, 1973, a dispatch reporting that an investigator had been 



What right does any arm of Government have to demand to know 
the political strategy, past or present, of any party or individual? 
Would it be a good idea to send the FBI over to Senator Kennedy’s 
office to ask for the file on his political strategy? . . .” 



348 



VICTOR LASKY 



suspended because Sam Dash believed he was the source of 
an article that was highly critical of the committee staff. 

The article, by Timothy Crouse, entitled “Senators, 
Sandbaggers and Soap Operas,” was published in Rolling 
Stone . Quoting anonymous sources, it presented a far 
from flattering picture of the behind-the-scenes work of the 
committee. 

When Dash read the piece and saw “that bit about his 
being an egomaniac, he went bananas,” a staff member told 
The New York Times . “There was no stopping him. No- 
body else who mattered gave a damn but Dash.” With 
Ervin’s permission Dash dropped everything to launch a 
full plumbers-type search for the culprit who had leaked 
to Rolling Stone. After a week Dash discovered that the 
leaker was none other than Scott Armstrong, the investiga- 
tor whom he had hired at the suggestion of Bob Wood- 
ward. What to do about it caused a split within the commit- 
tee. Some investigators demanded his dismissal; after all, 
he had cast discredit on their work. Terry Lenzner, however, 
urged Armstrong’s retention. Finally in a Solomon-like de- 
cision Dash ordered him suspended from the staff without 
pay for a month. 

Almost immediately Weicker — whom Rolling Stone had 
referred to as one senator who “does his homework” — 
praised Armstrong and offered him a job on his own 
separate investigative team. 

Despite Armstrong’s temporary suspension the problem 
of leaks continued to bedevil the Ervin Committee. So 
much so that when Dash sent out a rough draft of the 
final report to the member-senators, he appended a memo 
warning the staff to protect security on the document 
Dash noted that CBS correspondent Dan Schorr “has told 
us that he has been promised a copy of the draft by a 
member of the Committee as soon as it is received. I am 
sure this is merely a boast, but I would urge very careful 
security of the draft. . . . Each draft has a control number. 
At the staff level, we have ‘shredded’ working papers and 
are keeping a few copies of the draft (for editing purposes) 
tightly secured. . . 

The irony of the situation apparently was lost on Dash, 
the plumbers whom the committee had been investigating 
for so many months had been organized to plug leaks, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 349 

and much had been made of the way in which, shortly after 
the Watergate arrest, G. Gordon Liddy had been seen 
headed for the shredder with various documents. Now, it 
turned out, Dash himself had employed a shredder. 

But the greater irony was that while Dash was busy 
plugging the possible leak to Schorr, another CBS cor- 
respondent, Lesley Stahl, somehow obtained a copy of the 
report and promptly put it on the air. 

Another irony was that as chief counsel of a committee 
probing dirty tricks, Sam Dash himself was not averse to 
playing one on Republican staffers. With Ervin’s approval, 
Dash told them to take a holiday during the Memorial 
Day recess. He did not tell them he and other Ervin people 
intended to write the committee’s final report during that 
period and present it to them as a fait accompli. 

“When Fred Thompson and the committee returned 
from the Memorial Day recess, we had a draft of the final 
report ready for them. Fred seemed resentful and insisted 
on his staff going over each section . . . 

Probably the biggest leaker was Weicker. For a Republi- 
can, the senator was an oddity. He had actually fought for 
his job on the committee while most Republicans were 
running the other way. From the very beginning Weicker 
operated on his own with a team of five investigators who 
became known as the Third Front. Also from the very be- 
ginning Weicker made no secret of his intention of “getting” 
Richard Nixon. 

Ironically Weicker had been elected to the Senate with 
Nixon’s support. At the behest of the President’s chief 
political adviser, Murray Chotiner, money from a secret 
White House fund collected for the 1970 congressional 
campaign was siphoned off to aid a duly appreciative 
Weicker. As a result Weicker held Chotiner in high esteem. 
When Chotiner died in 1974, one of those prominent in 
attendance at the Washington Hebrew Congregation ser- 
vices was Weicker. (Also there was President Nixon, bid- 
ding farewell to an old comrade; such are the vagaries of 
politics.) 

Weicker had made his way into the Senate through a 

* Chief Counsel: Inside the Ervin Committee (New York: Random 

House* **! 976). 



350 



VICTOR LASKY 



fluke. He ran against two opponents. The endorsed Dem- 
ocrat was a freelance clergyman and ADA Poohbah named 
Joseph Duffey; but a great many unreconstructed Democrats 
preferred the incumbent Tom Dodd, who had been cen- 
sured by his peers on charges most people by now have 
forgotten. “It was a delightful campaign,” wrote C. H. 
Simonds in The Alternative. “While Weicker went about 
portraying him as a one-man Weatherman bomb-and-orgy 
squad, poor Duffey devoted his scanty energies to referee- 
ing staff disputes over whether or not to bill himself as 
The Reverend; Dodd, meanwhile, bumbled along with chin 
up and smile bright and every hair in place. . . . And so 
Weicker went to Washington, giving the last laugh to Dodd, 
who must be laughing still as he beholds the pompous 
clowns who censured him, yawning and squirming through 
his successor’s weepy tirades.” 

In one programmed outburst during the Watergate hear- 
ings, Weicker — making sure the cameras were focused on 
him — had cried out, “Republicans do not cover up, Re- 
publicans do not go ahead and commit illegal acts, and God 
knows Republicans don’t view their fellow Americans as 
enemies to be harassed; but rather I can assure you that 
Republicans . . . look upon every American as a human 
being to be loved and won.” At the same time he denounced 
the White House for allegedly seeking to smear him, 
claiming that Charles Colson had been leaking nasty things 
about him to the press. Naturally Weicker was opposed to 
leaking. Except of course when he did the leaking. For, as 
it turned out, Weicker and his staff were feeding out con- 
fidential materials to press people on an almost daily basis. 
Weicker’s arrogant disregard of the rules shocked most of 
his colleagues. As columnist Nick Thimmesch observed, the 
senator “acted every bit as high-handed as anyone in Nixon’s 
White House ever did and could have well been a Water- 
gate himself if he had the opportunity.” 

Consider, for example, the dirty trick he played on 
Colson. Having heard the senator’s emotional outburst on 
television, Colson immediately called Weicker’s office. But 
the senator would not take the call, insisting through his 
secretary that Colson appear at his office the next morning. 
That meeting became almost as celebrated as the TV hear- 
ings. When Colson and lawyer David Shapiro an^ved, 
they were surprised to discover five men seated around the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 351 

senator’s desk. And Weicker looked even angrier than he 
did on television. 

“Sit down, Mr. Colson,” Weicker growled, barely rising 
to shake Colson’s outstretched hand. 

Seeking to soothe the Senator’s ire, Colson began to 
speak. “Senator, I appreciate your seeing me. I think there 
has been some mistake. I’m not the fellow who tried to 
stir up stories about you in the press.” 

Weicker ignored the statement and began denouncing 
Colson for the other White House actions. Both men 
raised their voices in anger. Finally, leaning across his 
desk, Weicker shouted, “You guys in the White House 
make me sick. I don’t know you — but I do know what you 
stand for, Mr. Colson, and we live in two different worlds. 
I deal in hard-nosed politics; you deal in crap. You make 
me so mad, I’d like to break your Goddamn nose.” 

Rising to his full 6 feet 4 inches, the senator came 
around the desk and pointed to the door. “You make me 
sick,” he roared. “Get your ass out of my office.” 

Within hours a transcript of the supposedly private en- 
counter was circulated among reporters, and aides to the 
millionaire senator told newsmen that Weicker had thrown 
Colson out of the office after the twelve-minute meeting. 
The story was played prominently in newspapers across 
the country. As Colson later wrote. 

In the whole sordid Watergate struggle, the Weicker 
episode for me was the most unpleasant; being falsely 
accused before millions on national TV, then coming 
almost to blows with a United States Senator. I was 
used to playing as rough as the next guy, but Water- 
gate was creating a madness I had never witnessed in 
twenty years in Washington, reducing political moral- 
ity to the level of bayonet warfare. 

A previous example of the Washington madness had 
been provided by Weicker in using confidential IRS records 
for his political purposes — this, after denouncing the Nixon 
administration for purportedly doing the same thing. The 
IRS, the senator stated, had been “behaving like a lending 
library,” passing out the tax reports of celebrities to any- 
one in government overcome by curiosity about these peo- 
ple’s financial affairs. “Clearly this is not material that 



352 VICTOR LASKY 

should be in the hands of anyone but the taxpayer and 
the IRS,” he said, addressing himself to the tax deficiency 
claims against these notables. 

Whereupon the self-proclaimed “idealist” made available 
to newsmen confidential tax information on audits of John 
Wayne, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, 
Richard Boone, Lucille Ball, and Ronald Reagan, all of 
whom, it seems, had trouble with the tax collector. The 
Weicker material included specific amounts assessed against 
each for back taxes. But what was perhaps not coincidental 
was that the senator saw fit to disclose confidential informa- 
tion only of persons who were known to have supported 
Nixon. Weicker’s implication was that the White House 
had been using the tax intelligence to protect Nixon’s 
friends. All of which aroused Vermont Royster to note in 
the Wall Street Journal: 

Since we would have known none of this except for 
the gossiping of Senator Weicker, I can’t help wonder- 
ing how this fits in with his splendid sentiment that a 
person’s tax information ought not to be bandied about 
to the curious. And that set me to wondering too about 
the Senator’s views on the tax returns of Richard 
Nixon, which have hardly been kept as a private matter 
between the taxpayer and the IRS. 

John Wayne had the last word. In a telegram fired off to 
the publicity-hungry senator, the nation’s number one box 
office star at the time said: “Senator Weicker, for your in- 
formation, I have never asked for, nor have I received IRS 
favors, nor have I needed them. What I need is protection 
from cheap politicians like you. The IRS has reviewed my 
taxes annually and I deeply resent your using your sen- 
atorial privilege in throwing my name around.” 

From the very beginning of the Watergate probe Nixon’s 
critics insisted that the President could demonstrate his 
willingness to cooperate in the search for truth by permit- 
ting his top aides to testify before the Ervin Committee. So 
Nixon permitted his aides to go before the senators, and 
only one — John Dean — sought to implicate him. All the 
others either insisted that the President had not been in- 
volved in the scandals or swore that they had no knowledge 
that he had been involved. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 353 

“Looking back over the testimony,” commented the Wall 
Street Journal, “its outstanding feature is the total lack of 
corroboration for Mr. Dean’s account.” 

In later years when he had more time to think, H. R. 
Haldeman often wondered how he, a perfectionist, permit- 
ted a man like Dean to get on the WTiite House staff. “If 
I had seen Dean’s FBI dossier it would have barred him 
from the White House. Allegations about a conflict-of- 
interest charge, however slight, involving his prior affiliation 
with a law firm would have been enough to concern me 
about the smoke, whether or not there was any fire.” 

Haldeman was referring to the fact that Dean had been 
fired from his first job as a lawyer for “unethical conduct.” 
But when Dean was hired at the White House, his once 
angry boss softened the recollection to “a basic disagree- 
ment” within the law firm. 

Later on Dean admitted that he had removed $4,000 
from the White House safe without permission, ostensibly 
to pay for his honeymoon. And as Barry Goldwater once 
told Nick Thimmesch, he couldn’t understand why “that 
little bastard” had to do that “because he always has had 
plenty of money.” The senator knew Dean through Barry 
Jr., who was his classmate at Staunton Military Academy, 
a neighbor in Alexandria, Virginia, and best man at Dean’s 
second wedding. 

As Nixon increasingly found himself enmeshed in the 
web of Watergate, Dean purred his way into the President’s 
favor, in addition to committing crimes. But when the going 
got tough, Dean got going. In order to “save my ass,” as 
he later put it, he turned informer, going first to the U.S. 
Attorney’s Office and then to the Senate committee. And 
with him he took various White House documents which 
he had secreted away in his safe deposit box. 

One of those documents came to be known as the Huston 
Plan. The plan, so named because it was developed by an 
interagency committee chaired by White House aide Tom 
Charles Huston, recommended mail covers, electronic sur- 
veillance, and even clandestine entries — as preventive law 
enforcement measures against violence-prone political ex- 
tremists. Bearing the signatures of the top officials of CIA, 
FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security 
Agency, and each of the military intelligence services, this 
plan was signed by the President on July 23, 1970. Five 



354 



VICTOR LASKY 



days later, on July 28, 1970, it was withdrawn at J. Edgar 
Hoover’s insistence. 

Contrary to opinion voiced during the Ervin hearings, 
however, the measure was not aimed at domestic dissenters 
or political demonstrators. It was aimed mainly at the ex- 
treme left, which by 1970 was growing in prominence, 
numbers, and degree of violence at an alarming rate. It was 
aimed at the kind of individuals who were murdering 
judges in their courtrooms and policemen on their beats. 
It was aimed, too, at the kind of minds responsible for 
thousands of bombings of buildings, including the United 
States Capitol, resulting in millions of dollars of property 
damage and several deaths. And it was aimed at organiza- 
tions whose members hijacked American planes to Cuba 
and Algeria, and murdered an Israeli diplomat outside his 
home in suburban Chevy Chase. 

But there was another motivation behind the Huston 
Plan. As Huston himself later explained, “a handful of 
people can’t frontally overthrow the Government. But if 
they can engender enough fear, they can generate an at- 
mosphere that will bring out of the woodwork every re- 
pressive demagogue in the country. Unless this stuff was 
stopped, the country was going to fall into the wrong 
hands.” 

Thus the. plan was not at all the product of wild-eyed 
reactionaries. Rather it was conceived as an effort to spare 
the nation from the threat of a violent clash between the 
New Left and repressive demagogues seeking to fill the 
vacuum left by a government powerless in the face of mount- 
ing violence. 

In any event the Huston Plan was quickly vetoed by the 
President. But Nixon’s short-lived approval, in the face of 
Huston’s caveat that some of the proposals could be con- 
sidered illegal, was later to form the basis for one of the 
three articles of impeachment voted against him by the 
House Judiciary Committee. 

“In fairness,” as William V. Shannon observed in The 
New York Times , “one also has to say that each of Mr. 
Nixon’s several predecessors at least as far back as Franklin 
D. Roosevelt might also be subject to impeachment on the 
same grounds. . . . There was nothing really new or un- 
precedented in the methods proposed in the 1970 plan. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 355 

They had at various times in the past been used against 
native Communists, gangsters and foreign agents.” 

As it turned out, the intelligence agencies had already 
been doing what the plan proposed — and neither Nixon 
nor Huston had any knowledge that these activities were 
being pursued independently. Surreptitious entries for ex- 
ample, which had begun in 1942, continued right through 
1976. One of them involved an illegal break-in at the head- 
quarters of an Arab organization in Dallas, Texas, and, 
according to former Associate FBI Director Mark Felt, 
may well have helped save the lives of several Jewish 
targets. 

But none of this came through during the hearings 
conducted by Ervin. Rather the Huston Plan was made 
to appear to be part and parcel of the Watergate syndrome. 
Ervin and his colleagues had apparently decided that the 
fact that Huston had once worked for Nixon’s White 
House was prima facie evidence of his complicity in some 
plot to turn the United States into another Chile. Despite 
his professed concern for due process Ervin did not permit 
Huston a chance to present his case before the public. 

Then came the revelation that Nixon had taped his 
White House conversations. The critics roared that only by 
releasing the tapes and submitting to interrogation himself 
could the President prove his innocence. Suddenly the sworn 
testimony of all the witnesses seemed to become meaning- 
less. All, that is, except Dean’s; his testimony the critics 
liked. 

And what they particularly liked was testimony which 
had absolutely nothing to do with Watergate or the cover- 
up. Ears perked up when Dean began talking about so- 
called enemy lists. There were several of these. One was 
compiled by a member of Colson’s staff and, according to 
Colson, was intended primarily for the use of the social 
and personnel offices in considering White House invitations 
and appointments. But the major list, as it turned out, was 
put together by none other than Dean himself. Under the 
heading, “Dealing with Our Political Enemies,” he wrote 
these immortal words: 

“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can 
maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with per- 
sons known to be active in their opposition to our Ad- 



356 



VICTOR LASKY 



ministration. Stated a bit more bluntly — how we can use 
the available Federal machinery to screw our political 
enemies.” 

Disclosure of the “enemy lists” was enough to set pre- 
sumably serious people to talking about how close the 
United States had come to being a “police state.” 

Among the names on the “enemy lists” were those of 
members of the Senate, the House, and the news media. 
But some of the senators listed by Dean as “enemies” took 
the trouble to deny they ever had been blacklisted by the 
White House, among them Clifford Case and Jacob Javits, 
both of whom had at times voted against Nixon programs. 
In fact Case issued a statement on the subject: “I am 
unaware of any discriminatory treatment by either the 
President or the White House staff. The President has al- 
ways been most cordial to me personally. The White 
House went out of its way to make clear it had no interest 
in a primary contest for the seat I held. And in the im- 
portant area of judicial and U.S. attorney appointments my 
suggestions, almost without exception, have been accepted.” 

Later on it developed that Dean had prepared another 
list, this one of McGovern supporters, which he had trans- 
mitted to the IRS with a request for special audits of their 
returns. But IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters took the 
matter up with Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, who 
told him to “do nothing.” According to Shultz, Walters’s 
notes showed that Dean had informed him that the Presi- 
dent had no knowledge of the list. 

In this case Dean’s only avenue for getting a tax audit 
on one of the President’s “enemies” was to write an anony- 
mous letter to the IRS. 

Still the lists proved exceedingly embarrassing to the 
President. For, as Nixon later observed, “they must have 
been prepared by idiots.” Some of the names included 
were those of Nixon supporters; for example, much to his 
amazement, Dr. Michael DeBakey, the Houston heart 
specialist, discovered his name on one of them. Purely by 
coincidence DeBakey was scheduled to visit with the Presi- 
dent shortly after his name was publicized. “I don’t regard 
myself as an enemy,” DeBakey said at San Clemente. “I 
was surprised to learn of it. I didn’t know what it meant.” 
Neither did the President. 

Subsequently a congressional committee — headed by 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 357 

two Democrats, Representative Wilbur Mills of Arkansas 
and Senator Russell Long of Louisiana — took a long, hard 
look at how the IRS had treated the White House “ene- 
mies.” The conclusion by the staff of the Joint Committee 
on Taxation was that a number of “ ‘enemies’ either were 
not audited or were audited too leniently.” Even more 
startling was the finding that a number of those on the lists 
had not even bothered to file income tax returns. And, 
according to the report, there was no evidence that audits 
of so-called enemies were on the average conducted more 
harshly than normal. “Indeed, if anything, the opposite is 
true. Several individuals on the lists appear to pose col- 
lection problems for the IRS. The service has been quite 
lenient in granting extensions to file in many cases, and 
has not yet attempted to collect taxes from several political 
opponents who have failed to file returns or even to ascer- 
tain the reason for failure to file.” 

In other words those lucky enough to have been in- 
cluded in the White House lists seem to have had a good 
chance of getting away with nonpayment of income taxes. 
Some police state. 

As the Ervin hearings drew to a recess in August 1973, 
it was becoming apparent that the committee was flounder- 
ing. Both Ehrlichman and Haldeman had plainly stymied 
the senators. As Haldeman suggested, the hearings may 
have created a climate so deficient in perspective that the 
eye of a fly becomes a terrifying object And, as the 
Washington Star noted, 

once again, the committee and its staff displayed 
their frustration. Senator Weicker especially rose to 
new heights of outrage. Majority Counsel Dash got 
himself in trouble. . . . Put a lot of this down to just 
plain weariness. But not all of it. We venture to say 
that the Ervin Committee had become a little too full 
of itself, a little too eager to take on, and bring down, 
the two men who already are fixed in legend as the 
big, bad guys of the Nixon White House. Why, it 
might be asked, wasn’t the Committee equally eager 
to put John Dean through such a wringer? 

With the growing air of frustration and conflict within 
the committee the feeling developed that public opinion 



358 



VICTOR LASKY 



was beginning to swing toward the embattled President. 
Committee members themselves began to sense a signifi- 
cant backlash. The folks back home were openly wondering 
whether they weren’t hounding the President. And perhaps 
even more fatal for the committee, general boredom — now 
that the principal witnesses had testified — was beginning to 
set in. 

The Wall Street Journal commented: 

The President’s critics are starting to worry that they 
may not be able to pin the cover-up on him after all. 
So they point to the spending on his homes. If that 
starts to slip away, they point to the ITT anti-trust 
case. If that falters, on to the Cambodian bombing 
and on and on. So impeach Nixon, they suggest, re- 
gardless of his specific culpability in Watergate — im- 
peach him, indeed, regardless of his specific culp- 
ability in any of the successive charges. 

The longer these charges are analyzed, the Journal went 
on, “the less black-and-white they become. They involve 
various insensitivities and misjudgments, but none of them 
looks much like a gross breach of American law or demo- 
cratic tradition, if it is placed in its true context. But as 
attention flits from one allegation to the next, none of 
them is placed in any context at all.” 

As an example the spending on presidential security at 
San Clemente and elsewhere 

is discussed as if the assassination of John F. Kennedy 
had never taken place. In the wake of that tragedy 
Congress passed laws calling for open-ended spending 
on presidential security. The great bulk of the ques- 
tioned spending was clearly pursuant to the hang-the- 
cost intent of those laws or simply to provide the 
necessarily elaborate communications. Yet, by now it 
seems the public is persuaded the entire $10 million 
somehow went to line Mr. Nixon’s pocket, though in 
fact efforts to specify an improper expenditure seem 
to have foundered. 

Similarly, the most minute attention is focused on 
who knew what about the ITT case, but no one steps 
back to look at the whole picture: Here was an anti- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 359 

trust case based on legal theories previous Democratic 
administrations would not touch, and which had been 
uniformly unsuccessful in the lower-court jousting 
with ITT. The Government settled the case on the 
basis of the largest divestiture in history, and a ten- 
year ban on future major acquisitions by ITT. It will 
take a great deal of minutiae to persuade us this was 
a sell-out. 

With regard to the Cambodian bombing, also, there 
was a war going on. If Presidential power as Com- 
mander-in-Chief means anything at all it must mean 
he can bomb troop concentrations of an enemy with 
whom we are in active combat. International law, 
also, clearly considers it irrelevant that such hostile 
concentrations are on the territory of a third na- 
tion. . . . 

Now, it is far from our intention to absolve the 
Administration of all blame in any of these incidents. 
. . . But nothing here strikes us as ... an impeachable 
offense. Except for Watergate itself, indeed, the in- 
cidents strike us as the normal mistakes, coincidences 
and embarrassments that would turn up if opponents 
guided by turncoats were turned loose on the record 
of any Administration that has ruled for four years, 
especially four years as difficult as the last four have 
been. 

The inconclusiveness of the hearings proved disconcert- 
ing to much of the media which had sought to establish 
direct presidential culpability in Watergate. And while the 
public appeared to be turning against the inquiry with a 
huge yawn, the media had no alternative but to keep the 
story alive. As Richard Wilson wrote: 

What will happen, if the trail is lost before it 
reaches the Oval Office, is that the press will be held 
guilty of as great and dangerous an excess of zeal as 
has been charged against the Nixon Administration. 
Nixon’s statement that a systematic effort has been 
made to destroy the President of the United States 
will be engraved on the mastheads of powerful news- 
papers along with their record of Pulitzer prizes. 



360 



VICTOR LASKY 



So the battle lines were fully drawn. At stake was not 
only the fate of the President but the power of the press. 
One or the other would have to emerge triumphant. There 
was no turning back. The die was cast. 

By then, however, Nixon was facing a new challenge — 
this one from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force 
headed by Archibald Cox. Despite pronounced misgivings 
the President had gone along with Cox’s appointment. That 
was the price he had to pay to get Elliot Richardson ap- 
proved as his new Attorney General. 

Nixon was not unaware of Cox’s ideological proclivities. 
A longtime Kennedy partisan, Cox had been described as 
the “informal dean of the Kennedy brain trust” during the 

1960 campaign. And following that election, JFK had 
rewarded him with the post of Solicitor General — the third- 
ranking job in the Justice Department. Cox’s liberal cre- 
dentials were demonstrated anew in 1968 when he headed 
a commission to investigate disorders at Columbia Univer- 
sity. The Cox group decided that while the students ought 
not to have been violent, their irascibility resulted from 
their grievances and, therefore, the university administration 
was to blame. Four years later Cox was an avid McGovern 
supporter. Shortly before he was designated special pros- 
ecutor, Cox made remarks critical of the administration’s 
policies on civil rights and civil liberties at a news con- 
ference in California. Moreover he acknowledged such 
“philosophical and ideological” differences with the Justice 
Department that he felt he could never consider taking a 
job there. 

On May 25, 1973, Cox was sworn in as special pros- 
ecutor, armed with full powers to investigate an ad- 
ministration which he had previously conceded he person- 
ally detested. Among those attending the ceremony were 
Ethel Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and his aide 
James Flug. 

But what disturbed the White House even more was the 
news that Cox was loading his staff with former aides to 
both John and Robert Kennedy. An ancient vendetta was 
taking a new form. In charge of the Watergate task force 
for example was James Neal, a Nashville attorney who had 
been special assistant to Attorney General Kennedy from 

1961 to 1964. As such he helped prosecute Jimmy Hoff a, 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 361 

a prosecution which led some civil libertarians to question 
whether it wasn’t persecution. 

Another member of “Cox’s Army” was William H. 
Merrill, a chief assistant U.S. attorney during both the 
Kennedy and Johnson administrations, who was chairman 
of the Michigan Citizens for Robert Kennedy for President 
in 1968, and was placed by Cox in charge of the “plumb- 
ers” task force. Merrill, who twice ran for office as a 
Democrat, told an interviewer, “We’ll set standards of 
conduct or show what they could be.” Which, needless to 
say, is not the role of a prosecutor. This extraordinary 
attitude was carried a step further by Thomas F. McBride, 
another former member of the Kennedy Justice Depart- 
ment. While heading up the task force examining “cam- 
paign contributions,” McBride told the same interviewer 
that he saw in his new job the opportunity “to use law 
enforcement as an instrument of social reform” possibly 
equal to the Progressive movement at the turn of the 
century. Which isn’t exactly the purpose of law enforce- 
ment. 

Eventually Cox’s staff numbered eighty or so. Armed 
with a superbroad mandate, the Kennedyite lawyers were 
assigned to probe an enormous range of potential trouble 
areas in the weakened Nixon presidency — most of them far 
afield from the Watergate break-in. No rumor or false 
implication was too wild for the investigators to dig into. 

With avid Kennedyites fully expecting to be gnawing 
away at the administration for three and a half years, a 
confrontation was unavoidable. No government could en- 
dure a continual inquisition constantly refueled by leaks of 
information. The noose was out for Nixon and he knew it. 
At the same time he was facing a crisis in the Middle East 
— one that could conceivably lead to World War III. On 
the eve of Yom Kippur the Egyptians staged a surprise 
attack on Israeli positions across the Suez. The Israelis, 
after setbacks, began to hit back. But they were running 
short on materiel. At this juncture, given the risks in- 
volved, Nixon made a courageous decision. He ordered a 
massive military airlift to Israel. Also courageous was his 
decision to face down the Soviet threat to send troops to 
the Middle East unilaterally. He ordered a worldwide alert 
of U.S. forces. And though that helped cool the crisis, the 



362 



VICTOR LASKY 



President got precious little credit. For his enemies were 
now suggesting that the U.S.-Soviet face-down was just a 
Nixon effort to divert attention from his troubles. As we 
now know, the suspicion was totally without foundation. 

It was during the Mideast crisis that the President also 
decided to get rid of Cox. The President had agreed to a 
compromise on the White House tapes which he believed 
conformed to a memorandum the Court of Appeals had 
made public “asking Mr. Cox and the President’s lawyers 
to agree on some compromise which would avoid a sharp 
constitutional encounter.” Seeking a quick resolution to the 
Watergate affair, the President accepted a plan whereby 
the respected Senator John Stennis of Mississippi would 
prepare a verified version of the subpoenaed tapes. The 
plan won the approval of Chairman Ervin and Howard 
Baker. And, just as important, it was a compromise dear to 
the heart of Attorney General Richardson. But Richardson 
wasn’t able to sell it to his old Harvard teacher Archie 
Cox. All of which led to what the White House chief of 
staff A1 Haig was to call “the day of the firestorm.” 

Saturday, October 20, 1973, had been a beautiful, crisp 
autumn day. It began with Cox going before the cameras 
to announce he was not buying the Stennis compromise. 
The White House considered this defiance and the President 
felt he had no choice but to order Cox’s dismissal. Rich- 
ardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, then re- 
signed, even though both of them had approved of the 
compromise. Richardson in fact made clear in a letter to 
the President that his resignation was not a protest against 
Nixon’s action, the reasons for which he fully “respects.” 
Rather, he said, he was resigning for the formal and hon- 
orable reason that he had assured the Senate that Cox 
would have certain rights which the President had felt it 
necessary to revoke. 

All that Saturday evening the news bulletins repeatedly 
interrupting the prime time television shows made the na- 
tion’s capital seem like downtown Santiago. From the 
frenzied, breathless, on-the-spot reporting on the tube, 
one would have thought that the storm troopers had seized 
control. The fact that the President was well within his 
rights in dismissing Cox — a fact noted by Yale Law Pro- 
fessor Alexander Bickel, among others — was completely 



IT DIDN’T START WITH' WATERGATE 363 

overshadowed by hysterical comments such as that of Ed- 
mund Muskier “It smacks of dictatorship.” Senator Ken- 
nedy called Cox’s firing “a reckless act of desperation by a 
President who is afraid of the Supreme Court, who has no 
respect for law and no regard for men of conscience.” 
Generated by the hysteria of the media, an avalanche of 
telegrams calling for the President’s impeachment or 
resignation descended on Washington. Editorials, even in 
hitherto friendly newspapers, condemned the President 
across the land. The Chicago Tribune , while warning against 
the reaction becoming “hysterical, inflammatory and di- 
visive,” called the President’s action “the worst blunder in 
the history of the presidency.” 

Yet, as the Washington Star pointed out, 

Mr. Nixon has broken no law, defied no court, pad- 
locked no legislature, muzzled no member of the 
press. The jackboots that some observers seem to hear 
echoing in the streets of Washington are largely in 
their own minds. ... In short, we could use a little 
more gravitas in the treatment of the President of the 
United States. There has been too much slander, in- 
nuendo and loose rhetoric about Mr. Nixon’s possible 
deeds and presumed motives. He has yet to be found 
guilty of anything other than having underlings and 
associates accused and some guilty of misdeeds. Nor 
is he, insofar as we know, mentally unbalanced, an 
insinuation which some have made. . . . Thinking men 
used to hold that the blood of kings can be shed, but 
never lightly. Richard Nixon is not our monarch but 
he is our president, and the only one we happen to 
have. To destroy him out of pique, at the cost of 
destroying the nation, would be a shallow victory for 
some and a defeat for all. 

Barely seventy-two hours after firing Cox, Nixon re- 
versed his position and agreed to provide Judge Sirica with 
subpoenaed tapes. On hearing the news, Cox went straight 
to the offices of Senator Kennedy because, as he explained, 
“I don’t have any office any more.” A week later, appearing 
before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cox conceded he 
was guilty of an “inexcusable” breach of confidence in 
having passed confidential information concerning the ITT 



364 



VICTOR LASKY 



case to Kennedy, among others. The information, acquired 
when Cox was special prosecutor, had come from former 
Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Yes, Cox told the 
Senate committee, he had broken his word to Kleindienst 
by letting the secret information drop in relaxed conversa- 
tion with Senators Kennedy and Hart, and two of their 
aides. “Of course,” he said, “I shouldn’t have done it. It 
was carelessness, not malice.” Somehow the information 
had found its way onto the front page of The New York 
Times. Cox denied he had leaked the story. As did the two 
senators. 

In effect Cox had weakened his image of impartiality 
and had given the administration an issue to use in trying 
to justify his dismissal. Deputy Press Secretary Gerald 
Warren said that the leak “makes clear to us at the White 
House his partisan attitude that has characterized his ac- 
tivities in recent months.” And he pointed out that of the 
ten top lawyers on the Cox staff, all but one had strong 
Democratic connections. Republican Senator Hugh Scott, 
who had condemned the Cox dismissal, also denounced 
the leak as part of a continuing pattern, adding that the 
Cox staff is “a hostile adversary staff.” 

There had been talk that some members of the staff 
would resign in protest. But that was not to be. Instead 
most of them remained, voicing suspicions however about 
Cox’s successor Leon Jaworski. An LBJ Democrat from 
Houston, Jaworski quickly reassured the staff Cox left be- 
hind. They were to continue their investigations; and there 
would be no “cover-ups.” 

Except, of course, those involving Democratic misdeeds. 
And that became more than apparent when the new At- 
torney General, William B. Saxbe, telephoned Jaworski to 
inform him of a file found in his office which revealed 
widespread wiretapping during the Kennedy and Johnson 
years. After describing the contents of the file, Saxbe 
asked Jaworski whether he could use it in his investigations. 
According to Saxbe, Jaworski called back later and said no. 

At the same time Jaworski made a major decision in the 
case of John Dean, choosing not to proceed with perjury 
charges, despite a record indicating that Dean had not 
always been a paragon of truthfulness. 

As an example there was the case of the shredded docu- 
ments. On November 5, 1973, Assistant Special Prosecutor 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 365 

Ben-Veniste informed Judge Sirica in open court that 
“members of our staff interviewed Mr. Dean and questioned 
him with respect to the contents of Mr. Hunt’s safe. Mr. 
Dean related that at some time in late January 1973, he 
discovered a file folder in his office containing the Presi- 
dent’s estate plan, two clothbound notebooks with card- 
board covers and lined pages containing some handwriting. 
Dean at that time recalled that these had come from 
Howard Hunt’s safe.” 

Dean had said that he never even looked at the contents 
of the notebooks, which he had casually “discovered” 
while going through a file. And what did he do with these 
notebooks, the existence of which was never disclosed to 
the FBI? Why, according to Ben-Veniste, “he shredded 
both notebooks in his shredder. At the same time he also 
discovered a pop-up address book containing some names 
with each page X-ed out in ink. Dean threw this pop-up 
notebook into the wastebasket at this time.” 

Dean’s disclosure that he had deliberately destroyed 
evidence caused only a minor sensation. Unlike other 
“horrors” attributed to men more loyal to Nixon, the story 
was quickly forgotten. The reason was simple. The story 
could cast doubt on the veracity of the President’s chief 
accuser. 

For when he had previously testified under oath before 
Ervin, Dean had told a different tale. At that time he told 
of how troubled he was when John Ehrlichman had sug- 
gested that he “deep six” (or throw into the Potomac) 
some of the evidence found in Hunt’s safe. “After leaving 
Mr. Ehrlichman’s office,” Dean swore, “I thought about 
what he had told me to do and was very troubled. I raised 
it with [Fred] Fielding and he shared my feelings that this 
would be an incredible action to destroy potential evidence.” 

What he did not say, of course, was that he had shredded 
the two Hunt notebooks. Instead he told how “everything 
found in the safe had been turned over to the FBI” — in 
the person of Director Pat Gray. But he had not turned 
over “everything found in the safe” to Gray. And that 
could well have proved to be Dean’s undoing, as well as a 
severe blow to whatever prosecutions depended on his 
testimony. 

As William Safire pointed out at the time, there was still 
another way for Jaworski to determine whether Dean’s 



366 



VICTOR LASKY 



credibility was — in legal parlance — “subject to question.” He 
could have called Justice Department prosecutors whom 
Howard Hunt had told about the notebooks shortly after 
his arrest. Late in 1972 they had described the purloined 
notebooks to Dean, whose immediate reaction was to deny 
any knowledge of them. The denial, of course, was one 
reason why Dean felt he had to destroy them. 

Despite all this, Jaworski went on television to insist, 
“We have found no basis for a perjury charge” against 
Dean. Nor was he charged with having lied to federal in- 
vestigators, a violation of paragraph 1001 of Title 18 of 
the U.S. Code, the statute under which a minor Watergate 
figure, Bart Porter, had only recently been sent to jail. 

Despite Cox’s ouster, however, thngs did not get better 
for Nixon and his embattled subordinates. The power was 
now more strongly in the hands of zealous prosecutors, who 
believed they could do no wrong because right was on 
their side. And what Satire described as a “reign of terror” 
ensued. The functionings of the White House were crippled 
as dozens of aides were called in repeatedly for questioning 
at the fearsome offices of the special prosecutor on K Street. 
Civil rights, let alone the amenities, were ignored as the 
investigators smelled blood. 

To his credit William Greider of the Washington Post 
took note of what he described as 

a reversal of roles which seems to mock both sides. 
The White House men, feared and hated because they 
trampled on the Bill of Rights, are now espousing . . . 
human conceptions of law and individual liberty, no- 
tions of crime and punishment and decent limits of 
political power, ideas which some would call liberal. 
The reaction is ho-hum. 

A lot of liberals, meanwhile, have become law-and- 
order zealots, imitating unconsciously the hard-nosed 
ethos which they once thought so frightening in Mr. 
Nixon’s Department of Justice. People who once 
argued that conspiracy indictments are dangerous to 
civil rights now spin webs for the Watergate con- 
spiracy case. Reformers who wanted to empty the 
prisons now grumble about short sentences for the 
Watergate gang. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 367 

One could almost feel the blood lust. And the White 
House responded in kind. Much of the mutual hatred could 
be felt at the daily news briefings at the White House. 
Illustrative is this exchange, which occurred in December 
1973 between some correspondents and press spokesman 
Gerald Warren. Warren had been asked by Adam Clymer 
of the Baltimore Sun whether the White House was in- 
volved in any way in the burglary of the home of Jill Wine 
Volner, the Watergate assistant prosecutor who at the time 
was cross-examining Rose Mary Woods in U.S. District 
Court. 

“How in the world would I know?” replied Warren. 

“But Jerry,” said another reporter, “with all deference, 
in following up Adam’s question, I know it does seem 
rather silly to be asking the White House about a burglary 
that occurred in Washington, but we have heard about 
certain burglaries before. Has the White House taken any 
steps or contacted the police or contacted the Justice De- 
partment or anyone to gather information or make an in- 
quiry concerning the burglary . . . ?” 

Warren responded, “I would think that the police de- 
partment would be the agency which would be qualified to 
investigate this matter. If that fine department requests as- 
sistance of the Justice Department or the FBI or anyone 
else, I am sure that assistance would be forthcoming. But 
I thoroughly reject the implication of the questions.” 

Then Norman Kempster, of the Washington Star , asked, 
“Can you state categorically that no one employed by the 
White House now or previously was involved in this 
burglary; not in investigating it but in doing it?” 

“As soon as the burglary is solved, I will be able to an- 
swer that question for you, Norm,” Warren said. “Now can 
you state categorically that no one presently or formerly 
employed by the Evening Star was involved in that bur- 
glary?” 

“Yes,” Kempster replied. 

“How?” Warren demanded. “How can you do that? I 
think this is ridiculous. May we move ahead?” 

The briefing moved on, but not ahead. 

At a public meeting Walter Cronkite was asked whether 
he would “walk the streets of San Clemente” conducting 
interviews with President Nixon the way he conducted 



368 



VICTOR LASKY 



those with the late President Johnson at LBJ ranch. 
“San Clemente or San Quentin?” replied Cronkite. 

The crowd roared and Cronkite quickly added, “That’s 
wrong. I am an objective newsman.” 

All kinds of speculation began to appear in print con- 
cerning Nixon’s mental stability, not because of any evi- 
dence that there was anything to be concerned about, but 
because it was assumed that any man should have cracked 
under such pressures. Which explains the play given to the 
allegation that Nixon had slapped a man while he was 
greeting bystanders at an airport in Orlando. It turned out 
that the “slap” amounted to a pat on the cheek, which the 
man described as “the greatest honor I’ve ever had ... I 
won’t wash my face.” But the damage was done. Many 
readers were left with the impression that the President was 
losing his senses. 

“Nixon’s right,” wrote Nicholas von Hoffman in New 
Times. “The media has gone rabid, and pathologically ar- 
rogant. You can’t hardly crack open a newspaper or turn on 
a TV without getting unsubstantiated garbage leaked out 
of a grand jury room, a barroom or some other place where 
rumors are trapped and collected.” 

As the obsessive assault on the President continued with 
even greater intensity, more and more Americans were be- 
coming increasingly dismayed and fed up. They began to 
call for a resolution of the crisis, one way or the other. 
Impeachment no longer was a dirty word. 

So foul had the atmosphere become toward the Presi- 
dent of the United States by this time that it was difficult to 
remember that only a year before Richard Nixon had been 
inaugurated for a second term after achieving one of the 
greatest landslides in American history. “What they used to 
call McCarthyism is now a virtue, because Nixon is the 
goat,” wrote the late Senator McCarthy’s counsel, Roy 
Cohn, in a commentary for Newsday. 

Let’s try to control our killer instincts enough to give 
to Nixon the same constitutional and moral pre- 
sumptions we would give to anyone else in so hapless 
a predicament. If we do, perhaps everything will end 
up happily ever after. John Dean can marry Martha 
Mitchell, and the Democrats may ride into office in 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 369 

1976 on a ticket pledged to restore that credibility 
and integrity that will certainly be a major plank in the 
platform they adopt at their nominating convention 
in Chappaquiddick. 

On the other side of the ideological spectrum Eugene 
McCarthy also appealed for calm in the growing crisis. In a 
speech in New York the former senator said, “little good 
would be served by the impeachment of President Nixon — 
except to satisfy public outrage over Watergate,” adding 
that “impeachment proceedings might interrupt the con- 
duct of foreign policy which, with Henry Kissinger as 
Secretary of State, has been as good or better than what 
might have been supported by recent Democratic Presidents 
and candidates.” But McCarthy found scant support for his 
heretical views among his former followers, one of whom 
said angrily, “That is just too much to take.” 

Indicative of the ugly mood was the playing of a 
subpoenaed White House tape as a big laugh at a George- 
town party. Attorney William Dobrovir, on retainer from 
Ralph Nader and several consumer groups, had sued Secre- 
tary of Agriculture Earl Butz and others on charges that 
the Nixon administration had illegally raised milk sub- 
sidies in return for campaign contributions. The suit had 
been filed in January 1972. In December 1973, almost two 
years later, Dobrovir succeeded in obtaining a recording of 
a meeting that the President and other administration 
officials had with dairy industry representatives in March 
1971. The White House had not claimed executive priv- 
ilege for the tape. 

Dobrovir borrowed a tape recorder from Fred Graham, 
a CBS correspondent, in order to make two copies of the 
tape. At the same time he permitted Graham to listen to 
the tape on what was described as an “off the record” 
basis. Feeling somewhat elated, Dobrovir telephoned a friend 
who invited him over to a small party she was having. 
When he arrived, he told the guests, “I’ve got in my pocket 
the hottest news item in town.” 

While the guests were “sitting around the fireplace, 
eating salami and chopped liver, having a drink,” (as 
Dobrovir later explained) he played the tape. Well, it 
wasn’t as good as Dobrovir had advertised. None of the 



370 



VICTOR LASKY 



guests could come up with any presidential directive to 
raise the milk price for the benefit of the Grand Old Party. 
What they did hear, it turned out, was several attempts at 
humor on the part of the President, which as yet had not 
been suggested as grounds for impeachment 

One of the guests was Kevin Delany, an assistant bureau 
chief in Washington for ABC News. Delany tipped off 
correspondent David Schoumacher, who called Dobrovir 
and asked if he could listen to the tape. When Dobrovir 
refused, Schoumacher asked, “Well, didn’t you play it at 
this cocktail party?” 

“Well,” Dobrovir replied, “that was just for fun.” 

Fun or not, Schoumacher broke the story on the evening 
news. Two days later U.S. District Judge William B. Jones 
summoned Dobrovir for an explanation. The abashed 
lawyer told the judge, “I made a very foolish mistake.” He 
said he was “extremely sorry.” Jones termed the matter 
“very serious,” and suggested that if the Justice Department 
felt that Dobrovir committed a serious breach of legal 
ethics, the case should be referred to the District of Colum- 
bia Bar Association. But eventually the matter was dropped. 
Dobrovir had gotten away with playing the subpoenaed 
tape, an act which even the Washington Post had found 
to be incredible. The Washington Star noted that “the 
playing of the tape at a cocktail party lends weight to Mr. 
Nixon’s argument that executive confidentiality is being 
breached by requiring him to turn over Watergate tapes 
to courts and investigators.” 

Then the story died. There were no follow-ups. Dobrovir 
went on to lobby among the members of Congress for the 
impeachment of President Nixon for high crimes and mis- 
demeanors. 

Also overlooked was a speech delivered on November 5, 
1973, by Daniel Schorr in Rochester, New York, in which 
the CBS correspondent declared: “This past year, a new 
kind of journalism developed, and I found myself doing 
on a daily routine some things I would never have done 
before. There was a vacuum in investigation, and the 
press began to try men in the most effective court in the 
country. The men involved in Watergate were convicted 
by the media, perhaps in a more meaningful way than any 
jail sentence they will eventually get. We’ve gotten good 
at uncovering those stories we shouldn’t be covering at all. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 371 

Luckily, most of what we reported turned out to be true. 
I’m proud. Yes, I’m happy. No. We ought to withdraw 
from it as soon as possible.” 

It was a speech so incoherent that, at times, it sounded 
like some of the White House tapes which eventually were 
released. 

About that time a new leader emerged in the national 
spotlight. He was Peter Rodino, who as chairman of the 
House Judiciary Committee had begun the process of con- 
sidering impeachment of the President. Rodino, an ob- 
scure congressman from Newark, New Jersey, had pre- 
viously conducted hearings into the fitness of Gerald Ford 
to be Vice President. When Ford’s name was finally placed 
in nomination, Rodino remarked that never before had any 
man undergone such investigation and emerged so well. So 
what did Rodino then do? He voted against confirming 
Ford. 

Later Rodino was to explain that his vote on the floor in 
no way reflected on Ford’s integrity or qualifications. Ro- 
dino, who represents a largely Black constituency, said he 
voted “no” because he had a fundamental difference in 
perception with Ford on the government’s role “in serving 
the needs of all our citizens.” 

“But,” Rodino added, “Jerry wrote me a beautiful letter 
afterward.” 



TWENTY-TWO 



Occupying a prominent spot on the coffee table in the office 
of Chairman Rodino was a thick book with a red, white, 
and blue jacket. Its title was The Imperial Presidency and 
it was autographed by its author, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 
as follows: 

“To Chairman Peter Rodino, A belated valentine. This 
book doesn’t provide answers, but it does lay out some of 
our history and it raises some important questions about 
the Presidency.” 

In the book Schlesinger traced the growth of an au- 
tocratic presidency, discussed the Watergate scandal and its 
potential impact on the White House, and concluded 
that “neither impeachment nor repentance would make 
much difference if the people themselves had come to an 
unconscious acceptance of the imperial Presidency.” 

Schlesinger failed to discuss his own role in selling the 
American people on the Imperial presidency. In previous 
works he had glorified such strong Presidents as Andrew 
Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt and such would-be strong 
ones as JFK, arguing for executive prerogative, and con- 
tending that Congress was excessively powerful while the 
President was hampered by congressional interference. As 
the Dallas Morning News observed of Schlesinger’s attack- 
ing the growth of presidential powers, “that is roughly 
similar to a book by the Boston Strangler attacking the de- 
cline of chivalry.” 

Schlesinger recognized his problem. So he sought to 
draw a line between “a strong presidency within the Con- 
stitution” as practiced by his former heroes and the “im- 
perial Presidency” of Nixon. The point seemed to be that 
FDR and JFK were capital fellows, to be commended de- 
spite occasional transgressions. Nixon, however, was a 
rogue and should be dealt with accordingly. Of course in 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 373 

his partisan approach to history Schlesinger deliberately 
failed to recognize that when it came to abuses of power, 
his presidential heroes far outstripped the despised Nixon. 
More germane was the fact that, faced with a bitterly hos- 
tile Congress, press, and intellectual Establishment, Nixon 
ultimately became appreciably less powerful than his pre- 
decessors, who generally had these auxiliaries working for 
them. The “imperial Presidency,” by now, was turning to 
ashes. 

In Congress many years before coming to public notice, 
Rodino had never expected to be courted by the likes of 
Schlesinger, one of the nation’s more publicized intellectu- 
als. And in all probability Schlesinger had never expected 
to be courting the likes of Rodino, a product of the Essex 
County Democratic organization. But the stakes were 
high. What Schlesinger wanted more than anything was the 
consummation of a long-held dream — the destruction of 
Richard Nixon, whose very existence affronted the in- 
house historian of the Kennedy administration. “Im- 
peachment may have grievous consequences,” Schlesinger 
had written in Harper's. “Refusal to impeach the President 
will have consequences even more grievous and far more 
enduring.” 

Schlesinger needn’t have worried. One of his pals from 
Camelot days was now actually running the impeachment 
inquiry. He was none other than John Doar, formerly head 
of the Civil Rights Division in Robert Kennedy’s Justice 
Department. This of course was the same Doar who, when 
informed of the FBI’s campaign to denigrate Martin 
Luther King, had done nothing to stop it. And it was the 
same Doar who had urged Attorney General Clark in 
1967 to seek intelligence information from government 
workers in the nation’s Black communities. Doar’s memo- 
randum, written September 27, 1967, following the Detroit 
riots, led to the creation of a computerized intelligence file 
that eventually grew to contain some 18,000 names, main- 
ly of Black militants. This was the kind of activity which 
Doar and others on the impeachment panel soon sought 
to characterize as “abuses of power” under Nixon. 

As president of the New York City Board of Education 
in 1969, Doar did a switch. He catered to the Black mili- 
tants, refusing for example to dismiss extremist teachers 
who made anti-Semitic remarks in class. Arnold Forster 



374 



VICTOR LASKY 



and Benjamin R. Epstein of the Anti-Defamation League 
pointed out that “when William O. Marley, chairman of 
the Brownsville Model Cities Committee, in a long anti- 
Semitic diatribe, repeatedly attacked Jews as dominant in 
the school system . . . there was no challenge from Presi- 
dent Doar. . . .” 

Doar had not been Rodino’s first choice as special coun- 
sel. Initially Rodino had approached liberal Republican 
Albert E. Jenner, Jr., of Chicago. But Jenner turned the 
job down, citing a backlog in his private practice; instead 
he recommended Doar. Eventually Jenner took the mi- 
nority counsel post, only after the “Illinois boys” — meaning 
Congressmen Robert McClory and Tom Railsback — 
“worked hard on me.” Following his appointment with 
unanim ous Republican approval, it became known that 
Jenner had concealed the fact that the previous fall he 
had been co-host at a business breakfast in Chicago for 
Senator Adlai E. Stevenson 3rd, an Illinois Democrat. 
Jenner, an old friend of the Stevenson family, attended a 
fund-raising dinner for the senator and contributed $1,000 
to his reelection campaign. Stevenson then had publicly pre- 
dicted that Nixon would not “survive three more months 
in office.” 

Hardly had Jenner been ensconced in his new post when 
he made an astonishing appearance on Chicago television, 
asserting that the President should be held responsible for 
some of the actions of his aides even if he had not known 
about them in advance. He went on to cite the activities of 
the “plumbers” as the sort of actions for which a President 
should be held accountable. The remark, coming just as the 
inquiry was getting under way, astonished the Republicans. 
If nothing else, Congressman Charles E. Wiggins of Cali- 
fornia told Jenner in a letter, no member of the staff should 
be making pronouncements of that kind. Instead they 
should be maintaining a judicious silence. But Jenner did 
not take the hint. He kept on voicing anti-Nixon opinions. 

From all this it was obvious from the very beginning of 
the impeachment inquiry that the cards were stacked 
against Nixon. As William Safire put it on January 17, 
1974, “By its choice of counsel, the House Judiciary Com- 
mittee has made it plain that it intends to look busy for a 
few months and then recommend the impeachment of the 
President.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 375 

Rodino promised that the committee would work “ex- 
peditiously,” saying it would proceed only as fast as “the 
principles of fairness and completeness” would allow. 
“Whatever we learn or conclude,” he added with a 
Churchillian flourish, “let us now proceed — with such care 
and decency and thoroughness and honor — that the vast 
majority of the American people, and their children after 
them, will say: ‘That was the right course. There was no 
other way.* ” 

The composition of the committee, however, guaran- 
teed against fairness. Ignored for the most part by a media 
always seeking conflicts of interest was the fact that Rodino 
had accepted a whopping $31,000 campaign contribution 
from the AFL-CIO, whose leadership was fiercely pro-im- 
peachment. In all, according to Representative John Erlen- 
bom, an Illinois Republican, the nineteen Democrats on 
Judiciary received $189,000 in contributions from labor 
unions in 1972 — about 14 percent of their financing. 
Rodino incidentally had also received enormous funds from 
the milk lobby — though there hasn’t been a cow in Newark 
for fifty years. 

Revealing too was the fact that of the thirty-five votes 
cast in the House against Gerald Ford’s nomination as 
Vice President, nine came from the committee’s liberal 
Democrats, including Rodino — despite the fact that the 
investigation into Ford’s qualifications showed him to be 
whistle clean. No wonder then that the White House had 
been complaining that these Democrats were as prejudiced 
against Nixon as a lynch mob that has already tossed its 
rope over the lamppost. Indeed Massachusetts’s Robert 
Drinan, a Jesuit priest of liberal credentials, had been the 
first congressman to introduce a resolution calling for im- 
peachment. And California’s Waldie had backed several 
impeachment resolutions. As the hearings got under way, 
other members of the committee indicated rather clearly 
that they had already made up their minds before hear- 
ing any of the evidence. 

“Unquestionably,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “one 
element in the Democratic drive for impeachment is a de- 
sire to humiliate Mr. Nixon, a politician Democrats have 
despised for more than a quarter of a century.” Schlesinger 
himself had long held a well-publicized hatred for Richard 
Nixon, a hatred which often led to such irrationalities as his 



376 



VICTOR LASKY 



predicting in the midsummer of 1972 that George Mc- 
Govern would win by a landslide. 

The clamor for the end of Richard Nixon could be 
heard everywhere. “In a very real sense,” wrote Nick 
Thimmesch, “we are in a time comparable to the worst 
hours of the Joe McCarthy era, for reason is diminished, 
and passion flows freely. . . . The difference between that 
hysterical period and now is that then one man, Joe Mc- 
Carthy, flailed against the world, and now, a world of op- 
ponents flails against one man, Richard Nixon. Where have 
all the civil libertarians gone?” 

Well, the American Civil Liberties Union was still 
around. It had mounted a huge campaign aimed at oust- 
ing Nixon. As far as the ACLU was concerned, Nixon 
was not entitled to the civil liberties of, say, an Angela 
Davis. He was guilty even before he was charged. 

Charles Morgan, Jr., who was leading the ACLU’s 
campaign, told how the impeachment cause was reuniting 
a lot of old friends from left of center: “There’s no civil 
rights movement. There’s no war. There’s no social-action 
movement I hate to use the word, but it’s liberal chic. 
Impeachment is there. It’s not ecology, but then whatever 
happened to ecology?” 

That outstanding liberal Murray Kempton, while sharing 
the impulse to impeach, deplored the character of the 
ACLU campaign and its stampede-the-Congress strategy. 
“We seem to have entered one of those periods when 
virtuous men feel driven toward quite vicious devices,” he 
observed in a CBS-Spectrum commentary. He noted that 
“polluting is a very dubious remedy for pollution.” 
Likewise Milton Viorst, no Nixon fan, was shocked at 
the antics of organized liberals. He wrote that the im- 
peachment crisis was 

also exposing some of the worst characteristics of 
some of his persistent enemies. ... I wish the ACLU 
would go back to worrying about civil liberties. I wish 
the National Committee for an Effective Congress 
would refocus its attention to the effectiveness of Con- 
gress. I’d be happy if the Americans for Democratic 
Action thought a little more about democracy. As for 
Common Cause, I have the feeling that its cause — the 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 377 

impeachment of Richard M. Nixon — has become so 
common that it’s humdrum. I admired the organiza- 
tion more when it was more selective in its goals. 

Impeachment is “an act of religious devotion” for these 
liberal organizations, Viorst concluded. 

Ironically the John Birch Society was also calling for 
Nixon’s scalp. As founding Bircher Robert Welch pointed 
out, he had had Nixon’s number as far back as 1958 when 
he called the then Vice President one of “the most dis- 
ingenuous and slipperiest politicians that ever showed up on 
the American scene.” Now Welch, who had also called 
Dwight Eisenhower a “willing tool” of the Communist con- 
spiracy, contended that Nixon was out to conquer the 
world. “That’s been Richard Nixon’s aim for twenty years,” 
said the sage of Belmont, Massachusetts, relishing all the 
impeachment talk.* 

If that wasn’t enough, there began to flow from the 
Judiciary Committee a torrent of leaks of material damaging 
to the President. And this from a committee whose chair- 
man had pledged that the inquiry would be handled in a 
fair and even-handed manner, without violations of the 
confidentiality of evidence in its possession. It was to be ex- 
pected that the White House would seize on the leaks as 
coming from, in Pat Buchanan’s words, “nameless, face- 
less character assassins.” But even The New York Times , 
which incidentally was publishing the leaked material, 
conceded there was a large element of truth in what 
Buchanan was saying. “The leakers,” wrote the Times , 
“apparently impatient with the rules of secrecy adopted 
by the Committee and presumably anxious to ‘get the 
President,’ are subjecting him to trial by the court of 
public opinion based upon fragmentary and unrebutted 
evidence and analysis.” 

One senator did praise those who leaked information 
from the Judiciary Committee. Lowell Weicker proudly 
announced that he himself had leaked information which 
he had obtained from such as Acting FBI Director L. 

♦The Birch Society was no stranger to impeachment. Its members 
had long called for the impeachment of Earl Warren as Chief Justice 
of the Supreme Court 



378 VICTOR LASKY 

Patrick Gray III. And if he could do it, why not his col- 
leagues on the other side of the Hill? The only leaks he 
didn’t like were those coming from the White House. 

Arousing particular controversy was the unauthorized 
release of a series of memoranda prepared by a staff mem- 
ber for four of the more vociferous anti-Nixon members 
of the Judiciary Committee — Conyers, Brooks, Drinan, 
and Kastenmeier. The memos, all of which were particular- 
ly harmful to Nixon, were prepared by William P. Dixon, 
who had been a coordinator in the 1972 campaign of 
George McGovern. Ironically Dixon was also one of those 
named in a General Accounting Office report alleging cam- 
paign funding violations in McGovern’s Wisconsin effort. 

Most of the Dixon material was based on his own 
extremely prejudicial interpretation of the White House 
tapes, which had finally been handed over to the Judiciary 
Committee by an unwilling President. The fact was that 
opposite conclusions were reached by different committee 
members on the same evidence. A good example of the 
confusion engendered over meaning was provided on 
June 6, 1974, when The New York Times carried this 
headline on its front page: nixon tape is said to link 
milk price to political gift. That very morning the 
Washington Post front-page headline read: tape provides 
no nixon link to milk funds. Which led a somewhat 
“startled” Senator Buckley to say on the floor of the Senate 
that day, “This experience has shattered my faith in the 
infallibility of the undisclosed sources of one or the other 
of these papers^ The question that now bedevils me is, 
which am I to believe?” 

Still the leaks continued, invariably in the President’s 
disfavor. There was the report for example that the Presi- 
dent, in dictating his recollections of March 21, 1973, 
described the day as “uneventful.” March 21, 1973, was a 
crucial date; it represented the foundation stone of the 
Nixon defense. For that was the day in which, the President 
said, John Dean finally leveled with him about the cover- 
up. Thus if the President, in recording his impressions, 
summarized the day as “uneventful,” the conclusion would 
be inescapable and staggering: Dean’s disclosures were not 
news to the President; he had already known 1 Such a 
conclusion was the one obviously hoped for by the leaker. 
Yet the leak, like so many others, was born of calculated 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 379 

malice. What the President had actually dictated into his 
Dictabelt machine were these words: “As far as the day 
was concerned, it was uneventful except for the talk with 
Dean.” 

Actually the published transcripts show that in the 
weeks after March 21 the President appeared to be truly 
amazed by the revelations coming his way. Talking to a 
friend after he released the documents, Nixon emphasized 
how much Dean had withheld from him on March 21. 
“What he didn’t tell me was more important than what 
he did,” he said, according to William Satire. And what 
Dean hadn’t told the President that day was how he had 
coached Jeb Magruder to perjure himself; how he had 
handled payoff money himself; how he had offered clem- 
ency to Magruder and McCord; and how he had shredded 
evidence, including notebooks taken from Hunt’s safe. 

The foul temper of the times was caught by columnist 
Charles Bartlett, who wrote: 

Already the raspings of a lynch spirit can be heard 
among those Democratic members of the Judiciary 
Committee who race out each evening to tell the TV 
audiences what they have learned in the committee 
rooms. The shallow spirit of contemporary politics 
is epitomized by those who seek maximum visibility 
to leak to the public what they have been told in con- 
fidence. Nixon is going to be quickly absolved by 
the public if he is indicted every night on television 
by these opportunists. 

In short the impeachment proceedings were turning into 
a three-ringed circus. “Rodino’s failure to plug these leaks,” 
wrote James J. Kilpatrick, “is one more reflection upon 
his lack of capacity for his job. ... By serving as a will- 
ing ally to the Committee’s hatchetmen, the conniving 
newspapers inevitably create the impression that their pur- 
pose is not to pursue the news, but to pursue a vendetta 
instead. It is an ugly image, harming the press as a whole.” 

John F. Bridge, writing in the National Observer , ob- 
served that the press had played a very active part in the 
Watergate drama, “including the rising clamor for im- 
peachment.” And “whether it was too much an active 
part and not enough that of a reasonably objective on- 



380 



VICTOR LASKY 



looker will be part of the General Accountability for the 
media.” 

“In my view,” Bridge noted, 

there is a widespread attitude that public officials must 
be more moral than the rest of us. I have been be- 
mused, for example, by a situation in one Washington 
suburb dominated by a wealthy left-leaning moral 
elite that has been apoplectic over Watergate; high- 
level bureaucrats, well-known members of the media, 
and concerned professional people. Yet the local lux- 
ury grocery has had to put his stock of caviar under 
lock and key because of shoplifting; closed-circuit 
television cameras scan the aisles at all times. 

And Clare Boothe Luce, widow of Time co-founder 
Henry R. Luce, in a letter to the editor irately lambasted 
Time for its “overinvestment in the destruction of the Presi- 
dent” and for its “phobic Watergate reporting.” She added: 

No President of the U.S. except Lincoln (in retro- 
spect, now to be considered another impeachable 
character) has ever been more savaged by the press 
than Nixon. . . . And he has shown that he can take 
it and take it and take it, with cool and courage. But 
few journalists — none on Time — have had even the 
sportsmanship, no less the journalistic objectivity, to 
report that whatever Nixon is or is not, he is one 
helluva gutsy fighter. To be sure, the capacity to take 
punishment as well as dish it out is not widely as- 
sociated with journalists, which is no doubt why they 
do not recognize it as a virtue in Nixon. 

Also noteworthy and surprising was the statement of 
Archibald Cox, who had been such a hero to the Nixon 
critics. “The media,” said Cox, “certainly (are) turning 
gradually to a more active role in shaping the course of 
events. ... I think it’s true of the Washington Post , The 
New York Times , Newsweek . . . and I rather think it 
seems to be true of some of the network presentations. It 
does seem to me that the selection of items emphasized 
often reflects the sort of notion that the press is the fourth 
branch of Government and it should play a major role in 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 381 

Government. I’m not sure that I want it that way when 
there are only three networks — to me that’s an awful lot of 
power to give to whoever runs the three networks.” Cox 
concluded by noting that he had no grounds for complaint 
about the way in which the media had treated him. “In- 
deed, they’ve treated me much better than I deserve.” 

Ignored by much of the media was a startling remark 
uttered by Sam Ervin in a moment of candor. On March 
10, 1974, this was the night lead of a UPI story filed out 
of Cleveland: “No evidence was produced in the Senate 
Watergate hearings to support impeachment of President 
Nixon, Watergate Committee Chairman Sam Ervin, D.- 
N.C., said Sunday. ‘I think this is one section of the Con- 
stitution on which Dick Nixon and I agree,’ he said.” 

No evidence to support impeachment, according to 
Ervin? Even in paraphrase that was a major assessment 
on the part of a senator whose investigations had lasted 
many months at a cost of millions of dollars. The UPI 
story was written by Pete Spudich. His account was con- 
firmed by another reporter present, Bud Weidenthal, of 
the Cleveland Press , who wrote that Ervin “also said that 
he learned nothing during the long Senate investigation 
that indicated to him that Nixon had committed an im- 
peachable offense.” 

After Nixon’s defenders seized on Ervin’s statement, 
the sage from North Carolina panicked. He did what most 
politicians do when they commit a blunder: he denied he 
ever said it. But the Cleveland reporters stuck by their 
guns. 

Finally Nixon’s lawyer in the impeachment proceed- 
ings, James St. Clair, demanded that the Judiciary Com- 
mittee open its secret sessions to the public. The commit- 
tee had suffered still another leak and St. Clair argued that 
since piecemeal revelations were coming out anyway, it 
might as well all hang out. 

What had specifically aroused St. Clair’s ire was the 
leak of a taped conversation of September 15, 1972, in 
which the President had expressed sour feelings about the 
Washington Post and lawyer Edward Bennett Williams. 
Though the Post was to claim that the remarks constituted 
a threat to its valuable television licenses, it was more 
plausible to conclude that Nixon was venting his anger. 
For at that time Williams was serving as counsel to the 



382 



VICTOR LASKY 



Post and to the Democratic National Committee, and that 
— to Nixon — hardly looked kosher. “I wouldn’t want to be 
in Edward Bennett Williams’ position after this election,” 
the President had said. “We are going to fix the son of a 
bitch, believe me . . As for the Post , the President pre- 
dicted that the newspaper would have “damnable, damnable 
problems out of this one — they have a television station 
and they are going to have to get it renewed.” 

St. Clair called this tidbit “irrelevant” to the impeach- 
ment inquiry and claimed that the leak had violated com- 
mittee rules and was prejudicial to the President’s case. He 
also could well have argued that there was nothing in the 
record to indicate that the President had ever done any- 
thing about his alleged threat. 

All that the leaked story proved therefore was that 
Nixon had a temper and was far from being the plastic 
man his critics sometimes made him out to be. At times he 
could get very emotional; and most times he thought he 
could indulge himself in letting off steam. As Haldeman 
put it in his celebrated interview with Mike Wallace of 
CBS, he and “all the rest of the senior assistants” had felt 
that “one of our principal duties had been not to carry out 
some of the President’s orders.” He explained, “It was not 
a matter of disloyalty. It was a matter of loyalty in not 
carrying them out. One of the means by which the Presi- 
dent let off steam was to issue orders that were clearly 
orders not intended to be carried out.” 

Haldeman offered this example: “The President called 
me into his room between meetings — he was in a rush — 
and he said, ‘I want lie-detector tests given to . . and he 
listed categories of people. He said T want them done 
today. I don’t want any arguments back’ and he put in 
some of his blunter expletive-type language, I guess. 

“I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and left because he was mad. I went 
out and did not do what he told me to do. And so he blew 
up. He said, ‘I told you to get it done and I expect you 
to get it done.’ ” 

Haldeman then told the President he did not intend 
to follow the order because he believed it to be “a bad 
idea.” 

“I bought the time,” Haldeman told Wallace. “The next 
day, he said, ‘What have you done on that?’ and he kind 
of laughed and I said, ‘I haven’t done anything.’ And he 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 383 

said, ‘I knew you wouldn’t.’ And I said, ‘Well, I knew 
you knew I wouldn’t . . .* ” 

Secretary of State William Rogers was another who 
knew how to resist an intemperate presidential order. As 
Satire tells the story in his book on the Nixon years, the 
President had received reports about some U.S. diplomats 
in Laos who had failed to carry out some White House di- 
rective or other. Miffed, the President sent Rogers a note 
telling him to “fire everybody in Laos.” Rogers, who had 
known Nixon for a long time, let it pass. But some weeks 
later the Secretary told the President that he had not car- 
ried out his order. Nixon gave Rogers a funny look and 
asked what he was talking about. “You said to ‘fire every- 
body in Laos,* remember?” Rogers said. “Oh, hell, Bill,” 
the President laughed, “you know me better than that.”* 

Much of this kind of material appeared in the transcripts 
of the Watergate tapes reluctantly submitted by the White 
House to the House Judiciary Committee on April 30, 
1974. The tapes, of course, were never intended for public 
dissemination without the editing out of what Nixon him- 
self was later to describe as “blemishes.” 

On hearing of the Nixon taping system, Arthur Schle- 
singer, Jr., predictably announced he was dismayed. It was 
“absolutely inconceivable” that anyone in the Kennedy 
administration would get involved in secret recording, he 
said. “It was not the sort of thing Kennedy would have 
done. The kind of people in the White House then would 
not have thought of doing something like that.” 

Imagine then Artie’s horror on learning that there were 
at least seventy tapes in the Kennedy Library of confiden- 
tial conversations made by John Kennedy. “And,” wrote 
Bill Buckley, “when they are made public, I am going to 
line up and listen to what Arthur said to Jack during the 
Bay of Pigs.” 

Ironically Nixon originally did not want any tapes at 
all. Shortly after he assumed office, he ordered the removal 
of the taping system which Lyndon Johnson had left be- 
hind. But two years later he installed a new — and more 
extensive — recording system, largely at the urging of his 

♦Other episodes of this kind are described in detail in the Safire 
book, Before the Fall (New York: Doubleday, 1975), probably the 
most authoritative written thus far on the Nixon presidency. 



384 



VICTOR LASKY 



predecessor. “President Johnson said that the recordings 
he had made of his conversations while President had 
proved to be exceedingly valuable in preparing his memoirs 
and he urged that I reinstall the recording devices,” Nixon 
said. 

Of course the transcripts which Nixon was forced to 
make public constituted only a minuscule part of his five- 
and-a-half-year presidency. And they showed him and his 
staff presumably at their worst. Because the transcripts 
dealt mainly with Watergate discussions, they necessarily 
were out of context. No discussions on domestic or for- 
eign policy or the operations of the government, in which 
the President could take pride, were released in an effort 
to balance the record. 

As Haldeman explained, “The conversations we were 
having (were) based on a long working relationship, an 
ability to talk in shorthand at some times, and other times 
to let your hair down and grind through a whole series of 
things without really thinking about the enormity of what 
you were saying.” 

To the disappointment of his bitterest critics the tran- 
scripts effectively ruled out the possibility that Nixon knew 
of the Watergate burglary in advance. And despite some 
ambiguities they generally supported his contention that 
he wasn’t aware of the cover-up until Dean enlightened him 
on March 21, 1973. (The June 23, 1972, “smoking gun” 
tape, which many observers feel constituted prima facie 
evidence of the President’s complicity in the cover-up, had 
not yet been made public.) In the March 21 transcript, the 
question of the million-dollar hush money payment to and 
possible clemency for the Watergate defendants arises. 
Here the text appears to support the President’s claim that 
he vetoed both. The conversation, in which various op- 
tions are considered, is long and repetitive. But the con- 
clusion was that clemency was impossible, as was black- 
mail: 

president: . . . But in the end, we are going to be bled to 

death. And, in the end, it is all going to come out any- 
way. Then you get the worst of both worlds. We are go- 
ing to lose, and people are going to — 
haldeman: And look like dopes! 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 385 

president: And, in effect, look like a cover-up. So that 
we can’t do. 

Many passages became the subject of dispute. As early 
as September 15, 1972, for example, the President con- 
gratulated Dean on his handling of the Watergate matter. 

president: -Oh well, this is a can of worms, as you know, 
a lot of this stuff that went on. ... But the way you 
have handled all this seems to me has been very skillful, 
putting your fingers in the leaks that have sprung up 
here and spring there. . . . 

Some commentators immediately interpreted the passage 
as indicating that Nixon knew of or at least suspected 
high-level involvement. But such an interpretation is incon- 
sistent with the March 13, 17, and 21 conversations, the last 
being the one in which Dean told the President that “I 
have the impression that you don’t know everything I 
know.” Nixon’s position on his “fingers in the leaks” state- 
ment, however, was that it referred to Dean’s success in 
putting off various pending civil suits that could have 
been embarrassing as the election approached. 

If anything, the 200,000 words that made up the 1,293 
pages of transcript showed that the participants in the dis- 
cussions were human beings — not cartoon caricatures, fig- 
ments of press agentry, or actors before the television 
cameras. All their doubts, confusions, fears, and evasions 
are displayed — embarrassingly so — with the bark off. Prob- 
ably the most realistic, even poignant, statement was made 
by Haldeman, whose public image was that of the tough- 
est of them all: “We are so (adjective deleted) square that 
we get caught at everything.” 

Nixon himself comes off as a somewhat beleaguered and 
bewildered prisoner of circumstances rather than, as por- 
trayed in liberal mythology, the malicious ringleader of a 
gigantic conspiracy to subvert the Constitution. What the 
transcripts do show is a President loath to move against 
longtime associates who somehow had blundered into an 
untenable position. The President found himself in a no- 
win situation. Had he acted quickly at the very beginning, 
he undoubtedly would have been accused of a lack of loy- 



386 



VICTOR LASKY 



alty to those who had served him. Now with the release 
of the transcripts the moralists were scornful because he 
had not flayed about in righteous wrath. 

The inability of much of the media to treat the ad- 
mittedly ambiguous transcripts in a fair and reasonable 
manner could only be attributed to an anti-Nixon psy- 
chosis which, by that time, was out of control. Thus The 
New York Times would have had its readers believe that 
Nixon never discussed right or wrong with his subordinates. 
Therefore the President must have been “immoral.” Here 
too the truth is otherwise. For the transcripts demonstrate 
the very “moral” concern the President felt about how 
to handle allegations that Haldeman and Ehrlichman were 
implicated. The issue facing the President was whether 
he should dismiss his two most trusted aides — a difficult 
decision indeed, since it would also seem to prejudge their 
guilt. At one point he says plaintively, “I want to know 
what is the right thing to do.” It is difficult to observe 
this agonizing without feeling some sympathy. And then 
the President told Attorney General Kleindienst, “The Jus- 
tice Department and the presidency are going to come out 
clean because I don’t tolerate this kind of stuff. But the 
point is, Dick, I can’t let an innocent man down. That’s 
my point.” 

About the only judicious appraisal of the situation in 
which Nixon found himself at this “point in time” was 
provided by the National Review , the conservative mag- 
azine which had not always cottoned to the President’s 
more “liberal” policies: 

A generation hence, looking back on Watergate, his- 
torians are likely to marvel at how much was made 
of it, and how White House bumbling made of so 
trivial an event the lever by which Mr. Nixon may be 
overturned. The original Watergate break-in was 
trivial and ridiculous. The original burglars deserved 
thirty-day suspended sentences. By the time Nixon got 
all the threads, or most of them, in his hand — March 
21 — the situation had become a lot messier. The air 
is now filled with all manner of resonant phrases: 
subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, high 
crimes and misdemeanors, and all the rest of it. The 
media have treated Watergate like the biggest thing 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 387 

since the wooden horse was insinuated into Troy. But 
even the crimes which were committed, and those 
which may have been committed, were trivial in 
comparison with the political consequences they have 
been made to yield. 

John Doar however was not satisfied with the transcripts. 
He announced that, while he was not charging deliberate 
distortion, some of the “unintelligible” passages were in- 
deed intelligible to his own experts. For one thing, he 
contended, the committee had high-quality playback equip- 
ment far superior to that at the White House. 

Eventually the committee released its own transcripts. 
One of them quoted the President as voicing concern 
about someone named “Earl Nash.” This was in a con- 
versation on March 22, 1973, with John Mitchell. On 
that occasion the former Attorney General had asked 
about the general political state of affairs. And according 
to the Judiciary version of the tape: 

president: Yeah, we’re all doing fine. I think, though 
that as long as, uh, everyone and so forth, is a, uh — 
(unintelligible) still (unintelligible). 

Mitchell: All of Washington — the public interest in this 
thing, you know. 

president: Isn’t Nash, (unintelligible) Earl Nash worries 
the shit out of us here in regard, regarding (unin- 
telligible). 

MITCHELL: Just in time. 

president: But the point is that, uh, I don’t — There’s no 
need for him to testify. I have nothing but intuition, but 
hell, I don’t know. I, but — Again you really have to 
protect the Presidency, too. That’s the point. 
mitchell: Well this does no violence to the Presidency 
at all, this concept — 
president: The whole scenario. 
mitchell: Yeah. 

The reference to “Earl Nash” sent newsmen frantically 
scurrying around in an effort to determine who the 
mysterious gentleman was and why he was worrying the 
shit out of the President. Finally a librarian at the Los 
Angeles Times , after rifling through numerous reference 



388 



VICTOR LASKY 



books, found, “Nash, Harold Earl” in Who's Who in Gov- 
ernment. Nash was identified as an underwater sound 
expert working for a navy laboratory in New London, 
Connecticut. Watergate reporters began to salivate with 
interest; an acoustical sound expert, no less. 

A reporter called the laboratory. He was told that Nash 
was away on assignment with the Sixth Fleet in the Medi- 
terranean. Nash was then traced to an apartment in Naples, 
Italy. When his phone rang in Naples, there was no answer. 
A Military Intelligence officer kept the story alive, how- 
ever, by telling the reporter that “the name sounds fa- 
miliar.” 

But the story of the mysterious “Earl Nash” was finally 
killed when Doar’s experts listened again to the tape. 
“Earl Nash,” it turned out, was “National Security.” And 
that’s what had been worrying the President. What the 
episode proved, therefore, was that Nixon was truly con- 
cerned that the Watergate disclosures were doing damage 
to national security. It was not something that he had 
conjured up in a desperate effort to conceal the truth. But 
none of the commentators followed this up. The “Earl 
Nash” fiasco was quickly forgotten. 

There were, of course, deliberate distortions of what was 
on the tapes. Probably the most significant was the quote 
which had the President saying, “I want you all to stone- 
wall it . . Headlines featured the quote. Cartoonists, who 
specialize in wrenching things out of context, had a field 
day with it. Newsweek featured it on its cover. 

But the full quote, as it appeared in the Judiciary 
transcripts, was something else again. It came up in the 
context of Nixon saying that Eisenhower had been too 
tough in firing his aide Sherman Adams. He added: 

And, uh, for that reason, I am perfectly willing to — 
I don’t give a shit what happens. I want you all to 
stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, 
cover-up or anything else, if it’ll save it — save the 
plan. That’s the whole point. On the other hand, uh, 
uh, I would prefer, as I said to you, that you do it 
the other way. And I would particularly prefer to do 
it that other way if it’s going to come out that way 
anyway. And that my view, that, uh, with the num- 
ber of jackass people that they’ve got that they can 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 389 

call, they’re going to — the story they get out through 
leaks, charges, and so forth, and innuendos, will be a 
hell of a lot worse than the story they’re going to get 
out by just letting it out there. 

Watergate had more than its share of inaccurate report- 
ing. As an illustration Newsweek, in what appeared to have 
been based on an interview with Dean, had disclosed that 
he would feveal in his public testimony that some “low- 
level” White House officials had planned to assassinate the 
military ruler of Panama, but that the plan had been 
aborted at the last minute. This “exclusive” story constituted 
still one more indictment of an “immoral” administration. 
The problem was that it just wasn’t true; in fact it turned 
out that Dean did not so testify. Significantly Newsweek 
neither corrected nor explained this discrepancy. 

Still another inaccurate story was bannered across page 
one of the Washington Post — hunt told associates of 
orders to KILL jack Anderson. And it reported that “ac- 
cording to reliable sources,” E. Howard Hunt, Jr., “told 
associates after the Watergate break-in that he was or- 
dered in December, 1971 or January, 1972, to assassinate” 
the columnist. According to the article, Hunt had said 
that the order, which came from a “senior official in the 
Nixon White House,” was “cancelled at the last minute but 
only after a plan had been devised to make Anderson’s 
death appear accidental.” 

But an investigation of the story by the Senate In- 
telligence Committee produced “no evidence of a plan to 
assassinate Jack Anderson.” The committee did ascertain 
that an effort had been made by Hunt to determine the 
possibility of drugging Anderson so as to render him inco- 
herent before a public appearance. When Hunt learned of 
the impracticality of the venture, the matter was dropped. 
The question was whether Hunt had acted on the order 
of Colson. This Colson flatly denied. However he recalled 
Hunt “on a couple of occasions coming to me with some 
hare-brained schemes, something to do with drugging in- 
volving Jack Anderson.” But he said he never authorized 
any such project. And there is no independent evidence he 
did. 

The Washington Post “exclusive” — and it really was ex- 
clusive — was written by Bob Woodward. And Woodward, 



390 



VICTOR LASKY 



along with Carl Bernstein, was the great hero of Water- 
gate. The popular perception of the two young reporters 
(buttressed by All the President's Men , as well as the film 
based on the best-selling book) is that, in the words of the 
dust jacket, their “brilliant investigative journalism smashed 
the Watergate scandal wide open.” But that isn’t exactly 
the truth. As Lester Markel, former Sunday editor of The 
New York Times , put it: “The Washington Post's coverage 
was not investigative reporting in the real sense because 
the original facts were dug up by others.” Or as Nicholas 
von Hoffman wrote in the Washington Post , of all places, 
about the “brilliant investigative journalism:” “If you 
believe that, you also probably can be convinced that if 
you kiss a toad, it’ll turn into a prince.” 

Woodward and Bernstein did “break” the Mexican con- 
nection through which money from the CRP was trans- 
mitted to the Watergate burglars. But they did not find 
this out through their own investigations; rather they ob- 
tained the information from federal and local investigators. 
At best they often were able to publish information a few 
days in advance of its normal public disclosure. As Ed- 
ward Jay Epstein argued in Commentary , “It was not the 
press which exposed Watergate; it was the agencies of Gov- 
ernment itself.” Epstein in effect dismissed the efforts of 
Woodward and Bernstein; they did, “of course, add fuel 
to the fire. But . . . they were not the only ones publicizing 
the case.” 

Their one original discovery actually had nothing to do 
with Watergate. It involved Donald Segretti, whose dirty 
tricks had nothing to do with the break-in. Yet from the 
start of their investigation Woodward and Bernstein be- 
lieved there was a direct connection between dirty tricks 
and Watergate. Which, in a far-fetched way, was like link- 
ing Dick Tuck’s “pranks” with the harassment of Martin 
Luther King. There just was no connection. In retrospect it 
was the enormous play given the Segretti story by the 
Washington Post which resulted in indictments. The au- 
thorities felt they had no choice but to go after Segretti 
and Dwight Chapin. Thus they would be able to avoid 
the cry of “cover-up.” And in the end of Segretti served 
time, after pleading guilty to three counts of distributing 
illegal campaign literature. Chapin was convicted on two 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 391 

counts of perjury for not telling the truth about his knowl- 
edge of a misdemeanor. He too served time. 

Finally therefore it wasn’t Woodward and Bernstein (or 
Redford and Hoffman) who smashed Watergate wide open. 
The cover-up began to unravel when James McCord, fear- 
ful of going to jail, wrote a letter to Judge Sirica charging 
that other persons besides those convicted of the break-in 
had been involved. In the final analysis it was Richard 
Nixon who ironically helped break the case when he or- 
dered his staff, including Dean, to testify before the grand 
jury without taking any claims of executive privilege. And 
he gave the same order with regard to the Senate Water- 
gate Committee. 

Little of this can be found in the book All the Presidents 
Men , in which Woodward and Bernstein exaggerated their 
role as, in effect, the saviours of our freedoms. For a time 
they were invested with magical powers by members of 
the journalistic fraternity who were looking for their own 
heroes. 

The very title of their book is misleading. Not “all the 
President’s men” were involved in Watergate — that’s guilt 
by association with a vengeance. Only a relative handful 
of top officials were even accused of wrongdoing. The 
book is replete with more specific implications that are 
demonstrably false. Dita Beard, for example, is described 
as “the author of the famous memo which showed that 
there was a connection between ITT’s promise of several 
hundred thousand dollars to help the Republican conven- 
tion and a favorable antitrust settlement.” The record 
shows that Mrs. Beard swore under oath that she did not 
write the memo, which she charged was an outright forg- 
ery. Moreover the memo itself did not “show” anything, 
except perhaps a certain tenuous connection. And con- 
trary to popular impression the ITT pledge of money was 
not to the Republicans but to the San Diego Convention 
Bureau. Moreover the antitrust settlement was far from 
favorable to ITT. If anything it was the most stringent anti- 
trust settlement in history, a fact conceded even by Archi- 
bald Cox. But more importantly Special Prosecutor Jawor- 
ski found no wrongdoing in the transaction. So the im- 
pression Woodward and Bernstein leave here is decidedly 
misleading. 



392 



VICTOR LASKY 



Then there were the “revelations” provided by “a 
source in the Executive Branch” dubbed “Deep Throat,” a 
nickname suggestive of fellatio. According to Woodward, 
the source was so secret that he did not even reveal it to 
Bernstein. But whether he ever existed or was a figment of 
Woodward’s vivid imagination is a subject still in conten- 
tion. Consider the James Bondish melodramatics in the 
book; Woodward rushing out at 2:00 A.M. to meet Deep 
Throat in deserted garages. Then there were Deep Throat’s 
warnings that “everyone’s life is in danger,” and that the 
CIA was conducting “electronic surveillance” on the in- 
trepid Post reporters. Great stuff for the film, but hardly in 
keeping with the record. About the only danger Woodward 
faced was the possibility of getting mugged while rendez- 
vousing in the middle of the night with Deep Throat. As for 
electronic surveillance by the CIA, no such evidence was 
ever produced by anyone. But it all played well on film. 

Exactly how much did Deep Throat — if he, she, or it, 
existed — really know? At one point the secret source pur- 
portedly told Woodward that there were “more than fifty” 
dirty tricksters, operating under White House and CRP 
control, for the purpose of destroying the opposition, “no 
holds barred.” And Woodstein published a page-one story, 
quoting “sources,” about a massive campaign of sabotage 
and espionage aimed at the Democrats. As it turned out, the 
story was vastly exaggerated. All Woodward and Bernstein 
had to go on were the juvenile antics of Segretti and a 
handful of pranksters. 

On another occasion Deep Throat claimed that the Nixon 
administration had been bugging throughout its tenure 
and, therefore, the bugging of the DNC was “only natural,” 
the mysterious source adding that “the arrests in the Water- 
gate sent everybody off the edge because the break-in could 
uncover the whole program.” Woodstein also quoted other 
sources as saying that Watergate and Segretti were just 
“the tip of the iceberg.” All of which, on the basis of facts 
later uncovered by numerous investigations, was highly 
exaggerated. There just was no iceberg under the tip. 
There was no massive wiretapping operation, no emerging 
police state. There was Segretti and his few dirty tricks. 
And there were the break-in and the cover-up. But if one 
were to believe Woodward and Bernstein, had it not been 
for their ceaseless labors, Nixon would have been in- 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 393 

augurated in January 1977 to the singing of the Horst 
Wessel Song. 

Woodward and Bernstein did concede making several 
errors. One of them was particularly damaging to the 
parties involved. Relying on confidential sources, they had 
reported that material obtained from the first Watergate 
break-in had been delivered to Bill Timmons of the White 
House, and Rob Odle and J. Glenn Sedam of the CRP. 
This, of course, tied the three men to criminality. “But,” 
Woodstein wrote, “the report was incorrect, and the deci- 
sion to rush it into print was a mistake. . . . Three men 
had been wronged. They had been unfairly accused on the 
front page of the Washington Post , the hometown news- 
paper of their families, neighbors and friends.” For some 
reason the Washington Post never apologized to the men 
it had wronged so dreadfully. 

Woodward and Bernstein do tell how they sought to 
question members of the grand jury about what witnesses 
had been saying under oath. The fact that this was in abso- 
lute violation of the law seemed to be lost on the intrepid 
reporters. Grand juries are supposed to act in secret; and 
grand jurors are sworn to secrecy. One of the jurors had 
told the prosecutors he had been visited by a Post reporter. 
The prosecutors immediately notified Judge Sirica. In- 
formed of this, Edward Bennett Williams, counsel to the 
Washington Post , instructed Ben Bradlee to direct his two 
reporters to “sit tight.” Things looked bad; old “Maximum 
John” could well decide to throw the book at Woodward 
and Bernstein. But as Bradlee later informed his fright- 
ened reporters, “Williams talked to Sirica and to the prose- 
cutors; he thinks he can keep you out of the slam.” 

Then came an irony normally to be found only in fiction. 
The young reporters were called to open court, where 
Sirica chided them for their misconduct but never men- 
tioned them by name. Despite Sirica’s harsh reputation they 
had gotten off scot-free. “In Britain,” commented John 
Roche, “they would probably be breaking rocks for a 
couple of years, and Ben Bradlee . . . would be on his 
knees at the bar of the House of Commons for publishing 
their material, apologizing and asking for clemency.” 

Thankful that they had not been treated like other law- 
breakers, Woodward and Bernstein left Sirica’s courtroom 
somewhat confused, amid a barrage of questions from 



394 



VICTOR LASKY 



other reporters as to whether they were the “news media 
representative” the judge had excoriated. When Dan Schorr 
suggested that the judge was referring to them, Bernstein 
cried “hearsay, innuendo and character assassination.” Pre- 
viously Woodward and Bernstein “had reluctantly agreed 
during a rush to the halls that only as a last resort would 
they deny the allegation outright; maybe they would, get by 
with indignation and artful footwork.” When asked directly 
whether they were the culprits, they bobbed and weaved, 
refusing to tell the truth. As Woodward and Bernstein re- 
port of themselves in the book, “They had chosen ex- 
pediency over principle and, caught in the act, their role 
had been covered up. They had dodged, misrepresented, 
suggested and intimidated, even if they had not lied out- 
right.” In short, a mini-Watergate. 

More than journalism was involved in the Washington 
Post's pursuance of Watergate. Bradlee and publisher Kath- 
erine Graham were pictured as having an almost psy- 
chopathic hatred for President Nixon. There is Bradlee, 
for example, when he learns of the resignation of Halde- 
man and Ehrlichman: 

For a split second, Ben Bradlee’s mouth dropped open 
with an expression of sheer delight. Then he put 
one cheek on the desk, eyes closed and banged the 
desk repeatedly with his right fist. In a moment, he 
recovered. “How do you like them apples?” he said. 
. . . Bradlee couldn’t restrain himself. He . . . shouted 
across rows of desks to Woodward. . . . “Not bad, 
Bob. Not half bad!” Howard Simons interjected a 
note of caution. “Don’t gloat,” he murmured, as Post 
staff members began to gather around. “We can t af- 
ford to gloat.” 

An unhappier time for Bradlee had been when he con- 
sidered the possibility of Mrs. Graham and others being 
subpoenaed for notes taken during the paper’s investiga- 
tions. Benjy was beside himself. “Of course we’re going to 
fight this one all the way up, and if the Judge wants to 
send anyone to jail, he’s going to have to send Mrs. 
Graham. And, my God, the lady says she’ll go! Then 
the Judge can have that on his conscience. Can’t you see 
the pictures of her limousine pulling up to the Women’s 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 



395 



Detention Center and out gets our gal, going to jail to up- 
hold the First Amendment? . . . There might be a revolu- 
tion.” So removed from reality was Benjamin Crownin- 
shield Bradlee that he could actually conceive of a revolu- 
tion over a multimillionaires going to the slammer. Imag- 
ine the “wretched of the earth” storming the barricades to 
salvage Graham’s limousine! 

It took an English press lord to blow the whistle on 
press efforts to “crucify” President Nixon. Addressing him- 
self to such newspapers as the Washington Post, Lord 
Thomson, publisher of The Times of London, declared that 
Nixon “was found guilty by newspapers before he was 
proven guilty.” And he went on: “This kind of character 
assassination is much more difficult in England because 
British laws provide more safeguards for a man’s reputa- 
tion.” 

By that time Nixon’s reputation was being tom to shreds 
in other ways. No President since FDR was as reviled, 
scorned, and mocked. It had gotten to the point where 
there was serious discussion of whether Nixon could take 
his dogs on Air Force One without reimbursing the gov- 
ernment. Roosevelt, who had actually arranged special trips 
for Fala, was able to turn it around, getting the best of 
such critics as Westbrook Pegler. Nixon however was in no 
position to fight back. And in The New York Times Eileen 
Shanahan reported breathlessly that Nixon’s tax accoun- 
tant had deducted a total of $224 from Nixon’s gross in- 
come in the four-year period 1969-1972 for California 
gasoline taxes, thereby saving the President nearly $19.63 
a year in federal income taxes. Since Nixon was riding 
around in official cars most of the time during those years, 
Ms. Shanahan thought the deduction was “seriously in- 
flated” — a dazzling insight which, according to William 
Rusher, won her the 1974 Prize for Creative Microeco- 
nomics: “ones lightly bent safety-pin.” 

Meanwhile Nixon was being called every dirty name in 
the book: ridiculed at the Kennedy Center for the Per- 
forming Arts by a comedian making obscene remarks about 
the President’s sexual prowess; served as subject of endless 
cartoons and graffiti everywhere; reviled on talk shows, in- 
cluding Johnny Carson’s; and denounced in printed expres- 
sion, ranging from scholarly knife to four-letter words. A 
young man in Saginaw, Michigan, was shown on the tube 



396 



VICTOR LASKY 



declaring, “I hate him.” And Nixon-watchers in the media 
made no secret of their fear and loathing. They began 
scrutinizing the President as the officers of the U.S.S. Caine 
scrutinized Captain Queeg, ready to elevate a moment of 
irritation into possible mental breakdown. Rumors spread 
that Nixon was on drugs; some reporters predicted suicide; 
there was even a diligent attempt to find a psychiatrist 
Nixon was rumored to be seeing currently. Eventually 
Woodward and Bernstein would begin asking close as- 
sociates whether it was true that Nixon had been talking 
to portraits on the wall of the family quarters. The answers 
were not wholly satisfactory — for there were only land- 
scapes, not portraits, in the upper floors of the White 
House. But that didn’t stop the intrepid Post reporters from 
finally quoting Ed Cox (who never talked to them) as say- 
ing that his father-in-law had been roaming around talk- 
ing to portraits of former presidents in the last days.* 
Respected newspapers which used to glory in relaying 
only news fit to print now published falsehoods in their 
campaign to topple the President. Thus The New York 
Times , in a front-page story by Seymour M. Hersh, re- 
ported that the President had been heard to utter anti- 
Semitic and other ethnic remarks on taped conversations 
he had had with Dean on February 28 and March 20, 
1973. Hersh had gone ahead with the story despite denials 
by the White House and, perhaps more importantly, by 
James Doyle, press officer for the special prosecutor. Doyle 
had listened to the two tapes in question and had not heard 
the President indulging in slurs. But Hersh went ahead any- 
way, reporting that Nixon had referred to “Jew boys” and 
had called Sirica a “goddam wop.” Actually, as it later de- 
veloped, it was Dean who used the phrase “Jewish boys” in 
talking to the President. As for “goddam wop,” the Presi- 
dent’s words on the scratchy recording in fact were “That’s 
the kind I want,” a reference to Sirica’s reputation as a 
tough jurist. There was an unfortunate Nixon reference to 
Jews in the arts — “they’re left wing” — in the so-called 
smoking gun tape of June 23, 1972. Talking to Haldeman, 
the President had recounted some upsetting experience en- 

*Of The Final Days John Osborne, one of the more respected cor- 
respondents on the Washington scene, wrote in The New Republic: 
“It is on the whole the worst job of nationally noted reporting that 
I’ve observed during forty-nine years in the business.” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 397 

dured by his daughters while visiting art galleries and the 
like. Nixon didn’t want them scheduled for such locales in 
the future. “In other words, stay away,” he said.* 

The Hersh story sent quivers of excitement down the 
spines of Nixon-haters. Writing in the New York Post , Pete 
Hamill called on New York’s “wops” and “Jew boys” to 
prepare a counterattack against Nixon. He wrote that the 
President’s “disregard for the Constitution” was such that 
tomorrow, if not today, the President could direct “a 
military coup d’etat” from Washington; Governor Wilson 
and Mayor Beame should immediately 

begin planning a program of self-defense. . . . (They) 
should order all New York police and National Guard 
units to draw up a plan of resistance. ... In addition, 
there should be a system that would enlist civilians as 
. . . defenders of bridges, tunnels and airports, while 
others are charged with maintaining the supply of 
food and water. We should find out how many arms 
we have available and how many more we would need 
to fight a long siege. In short . . . New York will fight. 
If he sends his soldiers, there will be a lot of tough 
‘wops’ and ‘Jew boys’ and Irishmen and blacks and 
Puerto Ricans waiting for them with machine guns. 

The Judiciary Committee was not the only committee 
guilty of engaging in trial by leaks. The Senate Watergate 
Committee, which seemed to be finding it impossible to get 
off the stage, continued to leak like a sieve. 

On June 11, 1974, Archibald Cox denounced the tactics 
of the committee as similar to those used by the late 
Senator McCarthy. Cox accused intellectuals and the press 
of deliberately failing to point out and to denounce these 
similarities. “Should not the same objections be raised when 
the staff or possibly some members of the Ervin Committee 
leaks the result of incomplete investigations, gives out the 
accusatory inferences it draws from secret testimony and 
even releases proposed findings of guilt upon men under 
indictment and awaiting trial?” he asked. 

•Though Nixon derided left-wing Jews in the arts, he appointed a 
widely respected right-wing Jew, Dr. Ronald Berman, to head the 
well-funded National Endowment for the Humanities. 



398 



VICTOR LASKY 



Almost from the beginning a group of majority staff 
members led by (who else?) Carmine Bellino began look- 
ing into the $100,000 that Howard Hughes had turned 
over to Rebozo for transmission to the Nixon campaign. 
According to Rebozo, he kept the money in a safe deposit 
box at his Key Biscayne bank. And the reason he didn’t 
turn it over to the Nixon committee was because of the 
internecine battle raging within the Hughes empire. “I 
didn’t want to risk even the remotest embarrassment of 
Hughes’ connection with Nixon,” he said. He was con- 
vinced, he added, that the Hughes loan to the President’s 
brother Donald had cost Nixon the 1960 election and 
“didn’t help him in 1962 in California” when he ran for 
governor. In June 1973 Rebozo returned the money intact 
to Hughes. An examination by the committee bore out 
Rebozo’s contention that he had returned the very same 
bills he had placed in his deposit box three years before. 
But the finding was difficult for the anti-Nixonites to ac- 
cept. They just knew, deep down in their bones, that some 
sort of chicanery must have been involved. The fact that 
there was no such proof did not curb their tongues or their 
typewriters. 

The investigations into Rebozo’s financial affairs broad- 
ened. As a consequence enormous amounts of taxpayers’ 
money were expended on what turned out to be fruitless 
efforts to “get” Rebozo. As Fred Thompson reported in 
his book,* “Members of the majority staff became highly 
competitive, because the one who achieved the break- 
through might be able to question witnesses at a public 
hearing. The same desire for glory . . . required that the 
hearings be prolonged. So staff members passed the word 
to the press and to Senators on the Committee that a 
breakthrough, like prosperity in the Great Depression, was 
just around the corner. 

“During this process of staff politicking, the elements of 
fairness and respect for individual rights frequently suf- 
fered,” wrote Thompson. “Rebozo was a particular target 
and an easy one. By the time the staff concentrated on 

*At That Point in Time, the best account thus far of the behind- 
the-scenes shenanigans, as well as partisanship of the Watergate 
Committee, this book was even praised by Sam Ervin for its honesty. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 399 

him, Nixon had been severely wounded, and no one stepped 
forward to defend the rights of Nixon’s best friend for 
fear that he might be accused of being soft on Nixon.” 
Rarely had such a witch-hunt been conducted against a 
single individual. According to Thompson, staff members 
were constantly flying down to Key Biscayne to interview 
Rebozo. They traveled in pairs, sometimes in threes. 
“Sometimes one team would interview Rebozo for four, 
five, or six hours; a few days later another group would 
arrive and go over the same material with Rebozo, seem- 
ingly unaware of what their colleagues had done.” 

Rebozo cooperated completely. He gave the staff access 
to his records. But every time a batch of records was ex- 
amined, stories would appear in the press quoting sources 
“close to the Committee,” none of which was ever flatter- 
ing to Rebozo. “One day,” Thompson reported, “Carmine 
Bellino examined the records of all the loans Rebozo had 
made over a period of several years. The next morning at 
9:30 the Miami Herald began calling each of the lending 
banks to verify information . . . about the loans.” 

Then there was the time the ABC network reported that 
the probers were checking into an allegation that Rebozo 
was running a “private investment portfolio” for the Presi- 
dent. The fund, according to ABC, contained “more than 
one million dollars” in unreported political contributions 
from “two international corporations.” Without na mi ng 
ABC, the President angrily denied the charge at a press 
conference and claimed the network had broadcast the 
story “knowing it was untrue.” ABC’s executive vice 
president Bill Sheehan countered: “If we do find that we 
were in error, we will broadcast a correction. So far, all the 
facts stand up.” It turned out that the facts did not stand 
up, but ABC never broadcast a correction. 

What particularly distressed Rebozo was the harassment 
of members of his family as well as business acquaintances. 
Another target was his longtime lady friend. Their financial 
records over a six-year period were subpoenaed. At the 
same time people to whom he had written checks in that 
period were questioned. Most of those interrogated, be- 
wildered by the gung-ho tactics of the young probers, were 
forced to hire lawyers. “At a Committee meeting,” wrote 
Thompson, “when I asked what six-year-old business rec- 



400 



VICTOR LASKY 



ords had to do with the 1972 presidential campaign, I 
never received an answer. By this time, the staff members 
realized they were really answerable to no one.” 

The investigators, who had obtained the toll records for 
11 telephones Rebozo had used in this six-year period, 
questioned him about 400 telephone numbers, asking 
whom he had talked to and about what. Staff members 
also cased his bank, seeking to determine who entered or 
left the premises. Unable to get the answers they wanted, 
two of them told a respected trust officer of the bank, 
“We’ll see that you get immunity if you’ll tell us the truth.” 
One immediate result was a decided falling off of bank 
business. At the same time Rebozo gave up some of his 
business endeavors rather than involve his partners in his 
problems. Essentially a private person, Rebozo found him- 
self the target of scurrilous articles in even respected news- 
papers. 

And yet not one word of protest was ever uttered by 
any of the nation’s civil libertarians. The American Civil 
Liberties Union said nary a word. 

Fred Thompson did seek to protect Rebozo’s rights. 
More than once Thompson raised the issue with Ervin. In 
view of the fact that the Senate had limited the investigation 
to the 1972 campaign, he asked, what gave the committee’s 
staffers the authority to investigate a private citizen’s busi- 
ness life? And what about the leaks to the press? According 
to Thompson, Ervin’s usual reply was that he understood 
that matters would be clarified in a week or two. But they 
never were. The witch-hunt continued. 

Eventually Rebozo was fully exonerated of all the in- 
nuendos spread by the Ervin Committee and an only-too- 
willing media. The first inkling of this came from Leon 
Jaworski, who had just resigned as special prosecutor. In an 
interview Jaworski said that Rebozo had violated no laws 
in his handling of campaign contributions. What a blow 
to the dozens of newsmen who had been on Bebe’s tail for 
nearly two years! And what a blow to the anti-Nixonites 
who had conjured up all sorts of fantasies regarding sinis- 
ter doings down in Key Biscayne. Now it turned out that 
all those millions of words regarding Bebe and Nixon — as 
well as all those TV newscasts — were based more on wish- 
ful thinking than factual evidence. For it was obvious 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 401 

from Jaworski’s remarks (and who should have known 
better than he?) that Rebozo had been telling the truth. 

Jaworski’s comments were contained in an exclusive in- 
terview published in the Knight newspapers on January 9, 
1975. The former special prosecutor contended that there 
was no hard evidence on which his staff could make a case 
against Rebozo. The story, summarized in an AP dispatch 
out of Miami, quoted Rebozo as saying he was “delighted 
that Jaworski came to the only conclusion any fair-minded 
person would come to based on the facts.” Though the 
Washington Post did publish a few paragraphs, that news- 
paper of record The New York Times must have lost its 
AP copy. The big TV network news shows, which had 
previously gone overboard detailing allegations against Re- 
bozo, completely ignored the Jaworski comments. The 
Cronkites, Chancellors, and Reasoners now appeared never 
to have heard of Rebozo. 

But many in the media were still hoping; for Rebozo 
was not yet fully out of the woods. As Jaworski said, the 
investigation was being continued by his successor. Some 
months later the Special Prosecutor’s Office disclosed that, 
after fifteen months of its own investigation, it had failed 
to turn up any evidence to warrant any charges against 
Rebozo. But no apologies were offered Rebozo by anyone. 
In fact there were expressions of dismay and outrage that 
he had been exonerated. 

The partisan character of the various investigators was 
reflected in the fact that they showed very little inclination 
to look into allegations of hanky-panky on the part of 
Democratic bigwigs. For example there was testimony that 
during his i968 presidential campaign Hubert Humphrey 
accepted $50,000 as a contribution from Howard Hughes. 
The charge was made under oath by Robert Maheu, the 
former aide who had broken with Hughes. According to 
Maheu, he personally handed over the sum in $100 bills 
in an attache case during a limousine ride on July 28, 1968, 
with the then Vice President in Los Angeles. Humphrey 
denied he had been given the money personally, adding, 
“He may have given the money to a campaign committee 
supporting me.” But one witness, Lloyd Hand, a former 
chief of protocol who had been Humphrey’s aide during 
the 1968 campaign, testified that they had been in the 



402 



VICTOR LASKY 



limousine when Maheu apparently handed over the attache 
case. All the testimony was given in the course of a federal 
trial originating in Maheu’s $17.3 million defamation suit 
against the Summa Corporation, the Hughes holding com- 
pany. In the end the jury chose to believe Maheu, rendering 
a verdict in his favor against the reclusive billionaire. 

To this day the question of what happened to the 
$50,000 which Maheu claimed to have handed over to 
Humphrey has never been resolved. And no interest was 
ever demonstrated by the Special Prosecutors Office, the 
Senate Watergate Committee, or any of the other agencies 
which were so busily ferreting out evil in the Nixon camp. 
The media also showed a disinclination to pursue the sub- 
ject, with one notable exception. Jack Anderson did re- 
port on October 17, 1973, that while Spiro T. Agnew was 
being sentenced for income tax evasion, the IRS had been 
quietly auditing the returns of his predecessor as Vice 
President. The IRS “raised its eyebrows over Maheu’s 
sworn testimony,” Anderson wrote, “because of evidence 
Humphrey did favors for Hughes. If $50,000 was paid for 
Humphrey’s services, then the money should have been 
reported as income. It was Agnew’s failure to pay taxes 
on a bribe that got him into trouble with the IRS.” 

Anderson produced handwritten memos from Hughes to 
Maheu, some of which were later placed in evidence in 
federal court. This was the way the eccentric billionaire 
communicated with his staff in the last ten years of his 
life. He wrote down his instructions on yellow legal pads; 
and the memos were delivered by trusted retainers. Several 
memos dealt with Hughes’s crusade to halt a huge nuclear 
test explosion that had been scheduled to take place in 
Nevada in 1968. Hughes apparently was concerned that the 
test would do damage to the numerous properties includ- 
ing gambling casinos he was acquiring near the test site. 
But he also appeared to have legitimate environmental 
concerns. One memo read: 

I think that the AEC must be made to realize that I 
am dedicated to the minimum request made of them 
[to delay the test]. That if they do not grant it, I will 
ally myself completely with the all-out anti-bomb 
faction throughout the entire U.S. That this group 
has only been waiting for a strong leader and I am 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 403 

ready to dedicate the rest of my life and every cent I 
possess in a complete no quarter fight to outlaw all 
nuclear testing of every kind and everywhere. . . . 

Hughes seemed to think he could enlist Humphrey’s aid 
in ending nuclear testing. “Bob,” Hughes directed Maheu, 
“there is one man who can accomplish our objectives 
through [President] Johnson and that man is H.H.H. Why 
don’t we get word to him on a basis of secrecy that is 
really , really reliable that we will give him immediately full 
unlimited support for his campaign to enter the White 
House if he will just take this one on for us? Let me know.” 
Other memos suggested that Hughes believed Humphrey’s 
help had be^n obtained. But Humphrey, whose son Bob 
was employed by a Hughes company, later told Anderson 
that he had been opposed to the Nevada tests long before 
he learned of Hughes’s interest in the matter.* 

Just as embarrassing to Humphrey was the disclosure 
that he had tried to keep valuable gifts that legally be- 
longed to the government. In 1974 when columnist Maxine 
Cheshire began looking into the matter, Humphrey sud- 
denly remembered the 7.9-carat diamond that had been 
presented to his wife in 1968 by the president of Zaire. 
Worth $100,000, the diamond had reposed in a Minnesota 
safe deposit box all that time. Humphrey returned the 
diamond to the State Department, explaining that he had 
not realized that the Foreign Gifts Act covered members 
of his family. At the same time the senator disclosed that a 
sack of valuable baby leopard skins, gifts to Mrs. Hum- 
phrey from officials of Somalia, had been sold in 1970 
for $7,500 and the money given to charity. The Hum- 
phreys however had no authorization to so dispose of the 
skins. 

Other financial irregularities continued to embarrass the 
senator. 

♦According to Maheu, Hughes had also tried to reach President 
Johnson. Maheu testified that Hughes had assigned him to offer 
$1 million to LBJ, provided nuclear testing in Nevada was ended. 
Hughes also instructed Maheu to “feel out” the President’s attitude 
about ending the war in Vietnam. Maheu said he did meet with the 
President at the LBJ Ranch and that Johnson insisted that the 
nuclear tests were of extreme importance to national security. Maheu 
then said he did not make the $1 million offer. 



404 



VICTOR LASKY 



— Like Nixon, Humphrey had obtained a tax deduction 
for the vice presidential papers he had given to the Minne- 
sota Historical Society. But after the furor over the Nixon 
deduction, the IRS took another look at the Humphrey 
transaction. The IRS then decided to disallow the nearly 
$200,000 deduction it had granted Humphrey. 

— Two of Humphrey’s campaign aides, Jack Chestnut 
and Norman Sherman, were convicted on federal charges 
involving illegal campaign contributions. Sherman, the sen- 
ator’s former press secretary, pleaded guilty to a charge 
that he had participated in a scheme to launder $82,000 
in corporate money to buy computer lists. Sherman said 
that he had accepted the corporate money on legal advice 
of Chestnut, a lawyer who was then Humphrey’s campaign 
manager. When asked by minority staffers of the Water- 
gate Committee to testify about the incident. Chestnut took 
the Fifth Amendment. 

— The Associated Milk Producers Incorporated (AMPI) 
was alleged to have given Humphrey’s 1968 presidential 
campaign $91,691 in corporate funds, his 1970 Senate 
campaign $22,500 out of corporate funds, and his 1972 
presidential campaign $34,500 out of corporate funds. 
Humphrey’s response was that his campaign organization 
handled such matters, not he, and anyway it would be 
difficult for a recipient to know whether the funds came 
from a corporate or noncorporate account. 

— Dwayne Andreas, a longtime Humphrey financial 
backer, was charged on October 19, 1973, by Special 
Prosecutor Jaworski with giving Humphrey’s 1968 cam- 
paign four $25,000 payments — $100,000 in all — out of 
the corporate funds of Andreas’s First Interoceanic Corpo- 
ration. The payments took place late in October 1968. And 
again Humphrey denied any knowledge that the payments 
were from corporate funds. Moreover, he said, “the cam- 
paign committee handled it.” 

— John Loeb, a Wall Street investment banker, was ac- 
cused of contributing $48,000 to Humphrey’s 1972 cam- 
paign for the presidential nomination, but concealing the 
contributions by ascribing them to the names of nine of his 
employees. Several of the charges were dropped and 
Loeb eventually pleaded no-contest to counts involving do- 
nations of $18,000. Here again Humphrey denied knowl- 
edge of any illegality. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 405 

— Then there was the disclosure that the Seafarers In- 
ternational Union had poured $100,000 into Humphrey’s 
1968 campaign a few days after the Johnson administration 
had denied a request by the Canadian government for ex- 
tradition of a former union official to face a Canadian per- 
jury charge. 

Humphrey himself declined to be interviewed by the 
Watergate Committee after minority staffers sought to 
question him concerning “funny” money. In fact the sen- 
ator sent a note to Ervin saying, “I see no point in incon- 
veniencing any member of your committee to meet with 
me.” And the chairman, who had been nearly apoplectic 
about White House stonewalling, let the matter pass. 

The fact that so little had been made of Democratic mis- 
deeds was noted by the Washington Star. “Imagine how the 
blood, subpoenas and leaks would have flowed had a Nixon 
official invoked the Fifth Amendment to keep from testify- 
ing or had sent a letter to the Committee saying he wouldn’t 
show up because he didn’t want to inconvenience the 
Committee. One can only wonder whether it was Demo- 
cratic partisanship or Capitol Hill clubbiness that caused 
the Senate Watergate Committee to let Humphrey off so 
easily.” 

Humphrey’s vulnerabilities could well have been one 
reason why the Minnesotan declined to enter the primary 
contests in 1976— thus affording the little-known Jimmy 
Carter an almost clear shot at the nomination. Humphrey 
was well aware that his opposition, including Carter, was 
prepared to dredge up his Watergate-type problems. Yet 
for sheer chutzpah Hubert had few peers. Addressing the 
1976 Democratic Convention in Madison Square Garden, 
the senator described the Republicans as “self-appointed 
experts on law and order,” who “have taken crime off the 
streets and put it in the White House.” And Humphrey 
applauded wildly when Carter said in his acceptance speech 
that there was a “double standard” of justice in this coun- 
try with “big shot crooks” going scot-free while poor peo- 
ple were being jailed. Well, that “double standard” obvious- 
ly didn’t do Humphrey any harm. 

Also taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimina- 
tion was the manager of Congressman Wilbur Mills’s ill- 
fated campaign for the presidency in 1972. The chairman 



406 



VICTOR LASKY 



of the House Ways and Means Committee, considered one 
of the nation’s most powerful men, declined even to reply 
to two letters sent him by Ervin asking him to appear for 
questioning. The questioning would have been about Mills’s 
connections with the Associated Milk Producers Incorpo- 
rated, which contributed to his campaign and provided of- 
fice help. According to Thompson, there also was sworn 
testimony that Mills had asked the AMPI to arrange an 
Iowa rally for him so he could address farmers. The bills 
for the rally, amounting to $45,000, were paid by the milk 
producers group. Apparently in return Mills had assisted 
the AMPI in its organized drive to persuade the administra- 
tion to increase milk-price supports. In addition the minor- 
ity staffers discovered that Gulf Oil had arranged to de- 
liver $15,000 in corporate funds to a Mills fund-raiser — 
something which most definitely was illegal. And as 
Thompson later noted, “Our investigation received little 
attention in the press, but our findings were well known to 
the political figures involved. And they were not exactly 
cooperative.” 

And when Mills got into trouble in the famous episode 
involving an Argentine stripper who had leaped into the 
Tidal Basin, he returned to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a 
campaign appearance before the Jaycees, most of whom — 
so reporters noted — appeared generally sympathetic. 

“You are the number one Democrat the Republicans 
would like to get rid of,” a member of the audience said to 
Mills. “Do you feel the jackals are after you?” 

“There are still Nixon people in the federal government 
who might be because I declared that President Nixon 
might have to resign when people learned about his taxes,” 
responded Mills. “There were reports that the driver of my 
car the other night at one time was in the government 
under the Nixon Administration, but there’s no proof that 
he had any instructions from anybody.” 

But such was the temper of the times that there were 
those in Little Rock who believed him. At least he was re- 
elected. Of course the Tidal Basin escapade was not his 
last; and he was finally forced to resign. 

As a noted Democrat once observed, “Money is the 
mother’s milk of politics.” Contributions of all kinds, legal 
and otherwise, have fueled the campaigns of politicians of 
both parties from time immemorial. “One remembers,” 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 407 

Bill Rickenbacker remembered in the National Review, 
“Senators Kennedy and Bayh crashing on a hilltop in 
Massachusetts and being found in a bed of money; literally, 
the cash was drifting all over the mountain. It is on record 
that they were flying up to attend the annual banquet of the 
Democratic party, and one supposes that services had 
been rendered, and payment in full was due.” But no con- 
gressional investigation ever was launched into the episode, 
which was quickly forgotten. 

There was a belated effort to examine McGovern’s cam- 
paign finances on the part of Thompson’s overworked 
probers — this the same McGovern who has been wearing a 
Watergate halo over his sparse locks. Yet the record shows 
that McGovern transferred some $340,000 in 1972 cam- 
paign funds to his 1974 campaign for reelection to the 
Senate. While apparently not illegal, nevertheless this was 
done at a time when McGovern’s L972 campaign creditors 
were being asked to discount their bills at half-price. This 
raised a question about a violation of the spirit of the law 
prohibiting corporate contributions to political campaigns. 

Commenting on these unethical, if not illegal, practices, 
former admirer Martin Peretz noted that, during the 1972 
campaign, 

McGovern could not resist the opportunity to talk 
about how open and aboveboard he and his associates 
were. It now seems that they were not quite as candid 
as they pretended. While repaying loans of some 
of the McGovern rich, they were still deluging the 
McGovern rank and file for last-minute contributions. 
At the same time, subsistence workers were taken off 
salary. At the end, however, there was a huge surplus; 
and some suspect that this surplus was the real goal 
of late October fund-raising. But what was to be done 
with that surplus? Hundreds of thousands of dollars 
contributed by thousands of citizens to a campaign 
to turn Nixon out of the White House was quietly 
shifted to keep McGovern in the Senate. 

McGovern was infuriated when he heard that the draft 
report of the Watergate Committee had cited an “ap- 
parent violation of the spirit of the law” in regard to how 
he had settled his debts with some corporations. In a letter 



408 VICTOR LASKY 

to Ervin he denounced Thompson and his minority staffers, 
comparing them to Haldeman and Segretti. What McGov- 
ern did not know was that the language to which he ob- 
jected had actually been suggested by Dave Dorsen, one 
of the few Democratic staffers who was not blinded by ex- 
cessive partisanship. It was, as Thompson later noted, 
“language with which we, of course, wholeheartedly 
agreed.” Nevertheless, unlike Republican targets of the 
committee, McGovern won his battle. Ervin passed the 
word that the phrase to which McGovern had objected was 
to be deleted from the report. And it was deleted, with no 
outcry from a media supposedly on the lookout for “cover- 
ups.” 

“Because of our limited manpower,” wrote Thompson, 
“the minority staff was spread thin; but it seemed that 
everywhere we looked there was an array of campaign 
irregularities waiting to be discovered.” Thompson’s in- 
vestigators, for example, found that Ed Muskie’s campaign 
had made an arrangement with Hertz Rent-A-Car which 
smacked of illegality. Even more promising was an in- 
vestigation into Mayor Lindsay’s campaign which had to 
be terminated. But enough was discovered for the com- 
mittee’s final report to cite Lindsay’s presidential bid as 
having accepted cash contributions from paving contrac- 
tors who somehow wound up with $1.7 million in con- 
tracts to provide asphalt to New York City. 

The cavalier manner in which the Democratic majority 
on the Ervin Committee engaged in cover-ups in behalf 
of Democrats was further illustrated by the treatment ac- 
corded a member of the House named James R. Jones, of 
Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jones, who had been an aide to President 
Johnson, had once written a letter to the AMPI complain- 
ing that the milk producers had stopped paying a re- 
tainer begun shortly after he left the White House. The 
letter in effect suggested that AMPI had placed him on 
the retainer because he had persuaded LBJ to do certain 
things in behalf of the milk industry. “When our staff con- 
tacted Jones about the letter, he faced a painful decision,” 
reported Thompson. “He had to admit either that he had 
improperly used his influence while serving in the White 
House or that, to keep the retainer, he had misled AMPI 
about his efforts in AMPI’s behalf. He told us that the 
latter situation was true — that he had not really provided 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 409 

any of the help for AMPI that was spelled out in his 
letter.” 

Jones pleaded with Ervin and other members of the com- 
mittee to keep any reference to his letter out of the re- 
port. And the Democratic majority agreed to do so. The 
argument was that the Jones matter did not fall within the 
charter of the committee to investigate matters surround- 
ing the 1972 campaign. But, as Thompson noted, “the rul- 
ing was not consistent with the Committee’s action on 
other matters of our investigation, including Rebozo’s deal- 
ings,” few of which had anything to do with the 1972 
campaign. “I believed that the Democrats were using the 
jurisdictional issue to bail out one of their Democratic 
colleagues.” 

As it turned out, the milk producers had also taken care 
of Johnson when he left the White House. Through the 
AMPI they had entered into an agreement with the former 
President to lease his thirteen-passenger Beechcraft turbo- 
prop airplane at a minimum of $94,000 a year. According 
to the contract, the AMPI had first call on the plane, which 
was based at the LBJ Ranch airstrip. It was a deal which 
the Texas-based co-op tried to terminate. All this became 
known as a result of an investigation of the co-op’s political 
dealings undertaken by Edward L. Wright, a former presi- 
dent of the American Bar Association. The study was 
initiated by the co-op’s board of directors to follow up 
reports of illicit contributions to the Nixon campaign and 
other questionable expenditures by AMPI officials. Basically 
the findings showed that the AMPI was more heavily in- 
volved with Johnson, Humphrey, and other Democratic 
leaders than with Republicans. 

Some interesting revelations came out of the study. The 
major revelation had to do with LBJ’s plane. The former 
President was quoted as saying he had welcomed the lease 
arrangement with AMPI because the payments supple- 
mented his retirement income. LBJ had conceded in a 
conversation with George L. Mehren, AMPI’s general man- 
ager, that the price was fairly “lush.” 

Mehren had gone to work for AMPI on June 1, 1968, 
one day after Johnson had accepted his resignation as 
Assistant Secretary of Agriculture. According to Mehren, 
he had sought LBJ’s advice in October 1972 when a Nixon 
fund-raiser sought additional campaign contributions. He 



410 



VICTOR LASKY 



met with the former President at the ranch. “During the 
meeting,” he said, “the President told me that the dairy 
people in his last campaign had agreed to give $250,000, 
but had not done so.” 

Outlining other ties between the co-op and LBJ, the 
Wright study reported that in 1968 the AMPI had paid 
$104,521 to publish a slick 241 -page book as a tribute 
to President Johnson. Titled No Retreat from Tomorrow , 
it contained color photographs of LBJ along with two 
dozen of his messages to Congress. Apparently printed be- 
fore LBJ’s decision not to seek reelection, it was de- 
signed as a memento for campaign contributors. AMPI 
deducted the costs as a a necessary business expense but 
its claim was disallowed by the IRS. Another phony book- 
keeping entry was made by AMPI when it paid a printing 
bill for the Humphrey senatorial campaign through a New 
York advertising firm. The item was invoiced as “consulting 
fee for Minnesota.” In both the Humphrey campaign and 
the brief 1972 campaign for the presidential nomination 
waged by Wilbur Mills, the co-op paid the salaries and 
expenses of individuals who worked fulltime on political 
chores — all decidedly illegal. 

Another corporation which maintained a secret fund 
for political purposes was Minnesota Mining and Manu- 
facturing, better known as 3M. Illegal funds were given to 
Senator Walter F. Mondale, Democrat of Minnesota; Hu- 
bert Humphrey; Gale McGee, Democrat of Wyoming; 
William Proxmire, Democrat of Wisconsin; Minority Lead- 
er Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania; and Senator Mark Hatfield, 
Oregon Republican, among others. In addition 3M con- 
tributed to various congressional campaigns as well as din- 
ners in which the receipts were collected by party cam- 
paign organizations. Yet under a deal worked out with then 
Special Prosecutor Cox, 3 M’s illegal contributions were 
wiped clean when the company pleaded guilty to a single 
count — the donation of $30,000 to the 1972 Nixon cam- 
paign. So from the very beginning a record was being com- 
piled which centered mainly on the sins of the Nixon ad- 
ministration. 

The unwillingness of the Ervin Committee to delve into 
campaigns other than that of Nixon was noted by the 
Washington Post in a news story on January 6, 1975: “The 
staff . . . felt obliged for political purposes to stay close 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 411 

to their charter and out of fund raising affairs of candidates 
other than Richard M. Nixon.” And the Post quoted a 
former staff member as observing, “Basically, the Senators 
were not wild about going beyond the narrowest scope of 
inquiry.” And for good reason. Had the committee begun 
looking into the illegal contributions of such companies as 
3M, its work would have been endless. And it also would 
have struck too close to home. 

Former President Johnson’s name cropped up again when 
The New York Times reported on depositions and docu- 
ments filed in a Washington court which chronicled the 
distribution of millions of dollars in Gulf Oil Corporation 
funds to politicians of both parties over many years. Ac- 
cording to the Times , the documents showed how “a Gulf 
lobbyist began his career with the company by delivering 
$50,000 to Lyndon B. Johnson, then the Vice President.” 
This was shortly after the 1960 election. The transaction 
had all the hallmarks of the kind of activity that led to 
the forced resignation of a future Vice President — Spiro T. 
Agnew. 

The Gulf employee was identified as Claude C. Wild, 
Jr., who later became the corporation’s chief lobbyist in 
Washington. Wild’s role was disclosed to SEC investigators 
by Thomas D. Wright, a Pittsburgh lawyer who served as 
outside counsel for Gulf. Wright quoted Wild as having 
said that David Searls, Gulfs former general counsel, 
gave him $50,000 in the early 1960s to deliver to LBJ. 
“That was his first assignment at Gulf Oil,” Wright said. 
“He did not know where the funds came from. And, sec- 
ondly, he did not know anything about the arrangement or 
why these funds were being delivered.” 

In addition to Johnson other top political figures were 
also paid off by Wild. In Wright’s notes of an interview 
with Wild there was this statement: “All Senators on Wa- 
tergate except Ervin.” According to Wright, “this was a 
reference in some way (that) Wild had assisted all of the 
Senators” on the Watergate Committee with the exception 
of Ervin. Therefore it was not surprising that when the 
committee called Wild to testify, the senators were only 
interested in hearing about the terrible arm-twisting the oil 
lobbyist was forced to endure from Nixon fund-raisers. 
Overlooked in his testimony was a sentence which most 
certainly sent a chill through the senators questioning him. 



412 



VICTOR LASKY 



“There is a great deal of solicitation done by the legislative 
branch, too,” said Wild. The record then shows that 
neither Ervin nor any of the other senators present — Baker, 
Inouye, Montoya, and Weicker, all of whom were basking 
as fighters against evil — sought amplification of Wild’s 
allegation. Instead Ervin changed the subject. 

In March 1976 Wild was indicted for having made 
illegal contributions in 1973 to Senators Inouye and Sam 
Nunn. Previously Gulf and Wild had both pleaded guilty 
to having given secret funds to the campaigns of President 
Nixon, Senator Jackson, and Congressman Mills. Other 
alleged recipients of Gulf cash included Hugh Scott of 
Pennsylvania; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Rus- 
sell B. Long, Democrat of Louisiana; Senate Ethics Com- 
mittee Chairman Howard W. Cannon, Democrat of Ne- 
vada; House Majority Leader Thomas P. O’Neill of Mas- 
sachusetts; Senator Humphrey; and Senator Hatfield, the 
latter “at the request of the Kuwait Ambassador.” 

At Wild’s trial in July 1976 Senator Inouye’s ad- 
ministrative assistant testified that he gave his boss $1,200 
of an illegal $5,000 Gulf contribution to cover out-of- 
pocket expenses. He said he didn’t tell Inouye where the 
money came from and his boss didn’t ask. The transaction 
took place in early 1973, when Inouye was serving on the 
Watergate Committee. It was during that period that Inouye 
had warmed the hearts of TV fans everywhere when, at 
the conclusion of John Ehrlichman’s day in the dock, the 
Hawaiian whispered “What a liar!” into an open micro- 
phone. At the Wild trial, under cross-examination by de- 
fense counsel, the administrative assistant admitted he had 
committed perjury when first questioned about the Gulf 
contribution by a federal grand jury on September 10, 
1975. “I testified untruthfully the first time,” he said, “to 
protect the Senator.” Shades of Watergate!* 

An account of how Gulf money was delivered to poli- 
ticians was provided to SEC lawyers by Frederick A. 
Myers, who had been the corporation’s “coordinator of 
legislation” in Washington. In a sworn deposition Myers 

♦On a ruling by the judge, Wild was freed because the alleged 
illegal transaction took place outside the three-year statute of 
limitations. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 413 

insisted repeatedly he never knew what was in the plain 
white envelopes that Claude Wild had asked him to deliver 
to various individuals around the country. Between 1961 
and 1972 Myers said he made about twenty trips. Election 
years were usually busy times for him. In May of 1964, 
for example, he flew to Oklahoma City, where he said he 
rented a hotel room and waited for Fred Harris, then run- 
ning for the Senate. “I called him and he came to the 
hotel,” said Myers. Harris, along with his wife and perhaps 
two or three other men, came to collect the envelope, he 
said. In 1976 Harris, a self-styled populist, unsuccessfully 
sought the Democratic nomination for President. One of 
the chief planks in his platform was the breakup of the 
major oil companies. Obviously if the payment was made, 
Harris didn’t stay bought. 

In all at least thirty-two senators and about two dozen 
members of the House were cited in court depositions as 
possible recipients of campaign fund largesse from Claude 
Wild. Several of the named recipients, such as Senators 
Baker and Jackson, announced they were returning the 
money. Others, like Senators William E. Brock and Russell 
Long, said they had no record of receiving Gulf money. 
Former Senator Fred Harris denied ever “knowingly” ac- 
cepting an illegal contribution. And Humphrey, when asked 
to return the money, said he was consulting his lawyer. 

Of course it was hardly considered likely that any of 
those named in the court depositions would ever be pros- 
ecuted — even if it could have been established that they 
had knowingly accepted illegal contributions. And that’s 
because of the statute of limitations conveniently shortened 
in their behalf. For this they all owed a debt of gratitude 
to none other than Wayne Hays, the Ohio Democrat whose 
dalliances with Elizabeth Ray were to cost him his extraor- 
dinary power in the House. In July 1974 Hays rammed 
through an amendment to the pending campaign “reform” 
law which, in effect, gave his colleagues-in-trouble statu- 
tory immunity from prosecution. In a secret session of his 
House Administration Committee, members by a show of 
hands voted to approve Hays's proposal to reduce the time 
period for prosecution from five to three years after the 
alleged violation. The bill was reported out and then passed 
by the House at a time when most media attention was 



414 



VICTOR LASKY 



concentrated on the Watergate-buffeted White House. At 
the same time Hays was loudly demanding that Nixon be 
called to account. 

Thus by voting for what they proudly mislabeled “re- 
form” legislation, the lawmakers who feared prosecution 
literally pardoned themselves. The outcry from the Water- 
gate-obsessed media was minimal.* 

The new law had the immediate effect of letting various 
prominent statesmen, including Wilbur Mills, off the hook. 
Another who escaped prosecution was Robert Strauss, 
the genial chairman of the Democratic National Commit- 
tee who had admitted receiving $50,000 in illegal funds 
from Ashland Oil in 1970 and 1971 when he was party 
treasurer. Strauss conceded he may have unknowingly 
committed a “technical” violation of the law. He claimed 
he had not known that the money came from the corporate 
treasury. “It was clearly represented to me as individual 
contributions,” he added. But then it turned out that Strauss 
had never listed the contributions and the names of the 
donors as required for all gifts of more than $100. Instead 
he reported the money as “miscellaneous” contributions, 
i.e., those under $100. Strauss later explained he had laun- 
dered the money because he felt Ashland Oil would not 
want the Nixon administration to know about the con- 
tributions. “I thought it was legal at the time,” he said. 

But it wasn’t. And the only thing that saved Strauss from 
prosecution was the “fix” engineered in the Democratic- 
controlled Congress. No wonder then that on Meet the 
Press in June 1976, following the scandals enveloping Hays, 
Bob Strauss said he intended to support the Ohioan’s re- 
election bid to the House. (This of course was before Hays 
decided to resign from Congress.) Replying to another 
question, Strauss said that the DNC had not yet returned 
the $50,000 to Ashland Oil, though this had been de- 
manded by some people in his party. The previous Novem- 
ber, for example, Stanley Sheinbaum, a California thorn in 
Strauss’s side, had told fellow liberals: “Republicans had 



•Arguing that there wasn’t any reason to grant “special privileges 
to politicians, Henry S. Ruth, Jr., then the special prosecutor, urged 
Congress to repeal the three-year limitation. But when the Senate 
passed the Watergate Reform Act of 1976, not one senator had 
offered an amendment to do so. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 415 

their Watergate. But we — for a lousy $50,000 — are not 
clean.” 

Not as lucky as Strauss was his fund-raising counterpart 
in the Nixon camp. Maurice H. Stans, unable to get under 
the umbrella of the statute of limitations, was forced to 
plead guilty to five misdemeanor charges of violating cam- 
paign finance laws — three for failing to make accurate 
reports of these transactions and two for accepting cor- 
porate contributions. He was fined $5,000. 

Strauss meanwhile continued to serve as chairman of the 
Democratic National Committee. 



TWENTY-THREE 



Midway through the impeachment proceedings Nicholas 
von Hoffman heard a congressman utter these historic 
words: “We’re going to impeach his ass. We’re going to 
do it.” And von Hoffman agreed that impeachment was 
inevitable. “We’re going to do it, although nobody will quite 
know why. . . . Beyond all questions of guilt or innocence, 
he must be impeached because we, the Super-Bowl people, 
have been promised the show. We’re gearing up for it 
emotionally the way we did when the ballyhoo built up for 
the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match.” 

Von Hoffman, hardly an admirer of the President, did 
recognize the hypocrisy of much of the campaign being 
waged to drive Nixon from office. 

There was the example of Senator Kennedy who, in 
commenting on the President’s refusal to turn over certain 
tapes subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee, said on 
May 8, 1974: “I think a fundamental part of our whole 
tradition is not to allow the person being investigated to 
set the terms of the investigation.” Of course five years be- 
fore, the heir to the myth had done everything possible “to 
set die terms of the investigation” of Chappaquiddick. He 
had hunkered down, hung tough, and adopted a public 
relations posture. He had gone on nationwide television to 
give his equivalent of a self-edited transcript of what had 
happened on Dike Bridge that terrible night. Having done 
all this, the senator then announced that this was the last 
time he would ever discuss the matter — let others wallow in 
Chappaquiddick. And he got away with it; the cover-up 
continues to this day. 

Meanwhile the thirty-eight members of the Judiciary 
Committee sat behind closed doors and listened to Doar 
drone out the evidence. What Doar and his staff were do- 
ing was pulling together a vast amount of material from 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 417 

numerous sources — the Senate Watergate Committee, the 
Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation, the In- 
ternal Revenue Service, grand juries, and other congres- 
sional fact-finding committees. Ail this information was 
compiled in thirty-six black loose-leaf notebooks, each 
dealing with such specific subjects as: the cover-up, “White 
House Surveillance Activities,” the Cambodia incursion, 
Nixon’s taxes, the ITT settlement, the 1971 milk price 
support decision, and the like. Less than 10 percent of the 
evidence was originated by the Judiciary Committee. Which 
is why, in the end, Doar earned the title pinned on him by 
a detractor — “The World’s Greatest Archivist.” 

Even Democratic members were appalled. “If these 
meetings were ever televised, the country would impeach 
us,” said one. “This isn’t an investigation; it’s a compila- 
tion,” said another. And the Republicans agreed. “Damned 
dull!” said Robert McClory of Illinois. 

When the executive sessions were finally over, Bill 
Greider reported in the Washington Post on July 22, 1974, 
that “even the most bullish Democrats conceded that their 
investigation did not produce a thunderous consensus that 
Mr. Nixon should be removed from office, the kind of com- 
pelling bipartisan agreement which would remove all 
doubt about the outcome.” 

Congressman McClory put it this way, “I kept waiting 
for the bombshell to appear, and it never appeared.” Even 
Democrats agreed that not one piece of evidence had been 
produced — no “hand in the cookie jar” or “smoking gun” — 
which would show conclusively that the President was guilty 
of a crime, or at least a broader “impeachable offense.” 
The impeachment forces were worried. Some worried out 
loud. As Ed Mezvinsky said somewhat incoherently, “This 
is it, this is the crunch. When we pull the package to- 
gether. Are we equipped to do it? Can we pull it off? That’s 
the question now. I’m very concerned about that.” 

But seeking new material would have meant the calling 
of witnesses; and this Rodino and company wanted to 
avoid at all costs. Thus none of the Watergate figures were 
interrogated by Doar or by the President’s lawyer, James St. 
Clair. The reason was the need for haste. As John Pierson, 
in a Wall Street Journal analysis of the impeachment hear- 
ings, put it following the Nixon resignation: “The Com- 
mittee didn’t take more time to probe and think because the 



418 VICTOR LASKY 

House Democratic leadership buckled under to public im- 
patience with Watergate and to legitimate fears that a 
Senate trial might slop over into 1975, thus raising awk- 
ward questions about the new Congress’ right to try some- 
one the old Congress had impeached.” But time could have 
been found. For one thing the committee could have hired 
more staff people and the members themselves could have 
worked harder. But most of the members — at least on the 
Democratic side — were opposed to heavier schedules. After 
all, their minds had been made up even before the hearings 
had begun. And they made no secret of their peculiar con- 
cept of justice. 

The failure to do more original digging drew the fire of 
Charles Wiggins, the California Republican who brilliantly 
argued Nixon’s case during the public debate. Along with 
Charles Sandman of New Jersey, Wiggins had been among 
the minority of Republicans who had voted against the un- 
seating of Adam Clayton Powell as a member of the House. 
Concerning Doar’s presentation, Wiggins said, “It wasn’t a 
careful and thorough presentation of the facts. We would 
have had great difficulty in proving the case in the Senate. 
You don’t start your case there by calling a transcript. 
You have to call witnesses.” 

In all of this the President’s rights were being constantly 
violated. Fairness went by the board. As Pierson noted, 
‘The Committee should have worried less about public 
relations and more about assuring due process to Mr. Nix- 
on.” Pierson incidentally could hardly be described as a 
Nixon apologist. He had written some tough critiques of 
presidential policies. And as a result the Wall Street Journal 
correspondent found himself on one of the idiotic enemy 
lists aimed at preventing him from being invited to any 
White House social affair. Which is what makes his analysis 
even more crucial for a proper understanding of the com- 
mittee’s rush to judgment. 

As an example of how fairness was sacrificed to public 
relations, Pierson wrote: “Having heard ten weeks of 
evidence behind closed doors — primarily to avoid partisan 
bickering but also to protect the rights of Watergate de- 
fendants awaiting trail, innocent third parties and Mr. Nixon 
himself — the panel then did an about-face and released 
almost all its closed-door testimony.” And then, in the week 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 419 

between the end of the hearings and the start of the tele- 
vised debate, the members weren’t even given time to think 
about the meaning of the mass of data presented them. In- 
stead Doar and company devoted most of that time to 
selling their own particular theories of the case. In this 
Doar was also assisted by the supposed minority counsel, 
Al Jenner, to the deep annoyance of even liberal Repub- 
licans. The result was that they voted to get rid of him. 
But Jenner refused to take a hint and go home. He re- 
mained with the committee, working directly for Doar. He 
insisted on remaining for the kill. 

The committee’s rush “directly from testimony to tube” 
was deplored by James Mann, the South Carolina Democrat 
who voted for impeachment. What he had wanted was for 
his colleagues to “draw our chairs into a circle” and reason 
together “in a thoughtful, deliberative atmosphere.” But, as 
he said later, the committee “just sat there watching the 
trees march by for ten weeks and then didn’t even discuss 
what they meant.” 

Of such was the highly hoked-up TV impeachment 
spectacular composed. “The suspicion lingers,” wrote Pier- 
son, “that . . . the Democratic majority was less intent on 
schooling the public about impeachment than on swaying 
the public toward a certain conclusion and in putting public 
pressure on wavering Republicans and Southern Democrats. 
Was the case against Richard Nixon so weak that resort 
had to be made to such tricks? It wasn’t. And the tricks 
only served to cheapen somewhat an otherwise sound 
process.” 

“Getting” Nixon was the name of the game. When Doar 
finally dropped his mask of impartiality and stood as a 
self-appointed Torquemada, Rodino said proudly, “When 
I hired him, I always knew he eventually would do this.” 
Since Rodino had been playing the role of a serious, fair- 
minded man to the hilt, this was a bone-headed thing for 
him to have said. But stumbling was habitual with the 
chairman. On June 27, 1974, in what he apparently thought 
to be an off-the-record session in his office, Rodino told 
three journalists — Jack Nelson and Paul Huston of the Los 
Angeles Times and Sam Donaldson of ABC — that he be- 
lieved all twenty-one of the committee’s Democrats “will 
vote impeachment and if five Republicans also vote for it. 



420 



VICTOR LASKY 



the full House will follow suit.” When the story was pub- 
lished, administration spokesmen including Vice President 
Ford cried “partisan lynch-mob.” 

Rodino’s reaction was as predictable. He raced to the 
floor. “I want to state unequivocally and categorically that 
this statement is not true,” he said. “There is no basis in 
fact for it, none whatsoever.” Since the three newsmen stuck 
by their guns, nobody really believed Rodino. The episode 
was soon forgotten in the rush of events. Still, as William 
Satire observed, though the main focus had been on Ro- 
dino’s prejudgment of the case, the episode went to what 
presumably was the heart of Watergate: ‘The apparent 
willingness of politicians, when caught in embarrassing 
‘situations,’ to cover up their blunders with obvious, ‘cate- 
gorical’ lies.” And lying, in the post- Watergate morality, was 
a crime only when indulged in by Nixon officials. 

But Rodino’s undiplomatic comment did point up the 
partisan nature of a body which ostensibly was proceeding 
in a judicious manner. Another example of political bias 
came when the committee’s Democrats — all twenty-one of 
them — voted against issuing a subpoena to obtain the rec- 
ords of dairy contributions to House members before April 
7, 1972, when the public reporting law for such contribu- 
tions took effect. The Republicans — all seventeen of them 
— voted in favor. Iowa Republican Wiley Mayne said that 
since the committee was investigating whether Nixon had 
raised milk price supports in exchange for a campaign 
contribution, it had the duty of examining dairy contribu- 
tions to House members or lay itself open to criticism for 
setting a double standard and a “cover-up.” But Rodino 
contended that the committee had no authority to make 
such an inquiry. All of which led "White House spokesman 
Ken Clawson to maintain that this meant that the Dem- 
ocrats did not want to be judged by the same standards to 
which they would subject the President. 

Then suddenly the milk issue evaporated as a possible 
impeachable offense, as did other matters which for many 
long months had made big, black headlines — the bombing 
of Cambodia, ITT, illegal corporate contributions, public 
expenditures on San Clemente and Key Biscayne, im- 
poundment, the President’s taxes. The reason why most of 
the committee members agreed to drop them was explained 
by Hamilton Fish. “Many Congressmen had received illegal 



rr didn’t start with Watergate 421 

corporate contributions,” said the New York Republican. 
“The milk thing was out because sixteen members of the 
Committee had received money from the milk trusts. The 
President had lied to us about Cambodia, but we couldn’t 
shoulder him with responsibility for a war many Congress- 
men had supported. And it was hard to show any direct 
quid pro quo on ITT. . . 

In other words, in terms of impeachment all these various 
allegations added up to nothing. But not before they had 
done grave damage to Nixon. For they had most certainly 
been used by his critics and particularly by the media to 
fuel the atmosphere of crisis. Now suddenly they were gone. 
“We went fishing,” Harold Froehlich, the Wisconsin Re- 
publican who voted for impeachment, told Greider. “And 
we played every issue we could for whatever it was worth. 
Part of it was creating an atmosphere for impeachment.” 
In other words all the issues were used to provide thunder- 
and-lightning — if no rain. 

A good example was the insistence of such Democrats 
as Mezvinsky that the President’s alleged income tax dodges 
be discussed, even though there was no likelihood that the 
subject would make its way into an article of impeachment. 
With Rodino’s blessing the subject was brought up on 
prime-time television, thus assuring a maximum audience 
for all kinds of unsubstantiated allegations. This aroused the 
ire of Charles Sandman, who turned his scorn on his Demo- 
cratic colleagues. “This bunch of baloney was supposed to 
have been taken up in the afternoon but it’s taken up to- 
night because there’s a larger audience.” On one tax issue, 
the one involving the First Lady’s use of Air Force One on 
her travels, Sandman noted correctly that the matter had 
never been brought up when Jackie Kennedy and Lady 
Bird Johnson were flying around at government expense. 
And even Railsback of Illinois, a moderate Republican who 
favored impeachment, accused the committee of “overkill” 
and “impeachmentitis.” Not all of the media was entranced 
by the committee’s performance either. James Reston ad- 
mittedly was in a dissenting minority of commentators 
when he sourly accused its members of “making recitations 
before the TV cameras,” adding that the whole exercise 
produced “bad law and boring television.” 

Most of the press however was of a different mind. So 
much so that Alabama Democrat Walter Flowers, a pro- 



422 



VICTOR LASKY 



impeachment vote, felt compelled to tell reporters: “I 
simply ask that each of you look inward and decide for 
yourself if each of you has treated fairly with the Presi- 
dent. I feel the perspective of Middle America has not re- 
ceived equal time from you.” 

Remarkably The Village Voice thought Flowers could 
be right, pointing out that 

reporters regularly snicker at Presidential defenders, 
and act as p.r. agents for “agonizing,” “anguished,” 
“courageous” Republicans who vote against Nixon. 
No one bothers to point out how slovenly and vague 
the original Committee’s staffs draft articles for im- 
peachment were, few point out how little real investi- 
gation the Committee did, how suppositional and cir- 
cumstantial much of the Doar case is. Stupid Republi- 
cans are ridiculed. Slow-witted Democrats like Joshua 
Eilberg (who claims that Nixon throwing an ashtray 
across a room at Key Biscayne after learning of Wa- 
tergate is proof positive of guilty prior knowledge) 
escaped well deserved ridicule. 

Some idea of the atmosphere inside the hearing room 
was also provided by the Voice correspondent. He reported 
that two reporters who hadn’t seen each other for some 
time had met for what to them must have been a joyous 
occasion. 

“This is like the McGovern campaign,” one said. 

“It is the McGovern campaign,” the other replied. “He 
just peaked too late.” 

Or as Richard Reeves reported in New York , “You only 
had to spend five minutes in Rayburn House Office Building 
2101, the press room, to know that it was us against them — 
and ‘them* is Nixon and the boys still on the burning 
deck.” 

But it wasn’t all easy sailing for the impeachment forces. 
The Nixon loyalists mounted a campaign demanding 
“specificity” — that is, dates, times, and events to support 
each and every allegation in the first article of impeachment. 
The article accused Nixon of having violated his constitu- 
tional oath in having “prevented, obstructed and impeded 
the administration of justice, in that . . . using the powers 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 423 

of his high office, engaged personally and through his sub- 
ordinates and agents, in a course of action or plan designed 
to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of (the 
Watergate break-in) ; to cover up, conceal and protect those 
responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of 
other unlawful covert activities. ... In all of this, Richard 
M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as 
President and subversive of constitutional government, to 
the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to 
the manifest injury of the people of the United States. 
Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants 
impeachment and trial, and removal from office.” 

It was Charles Wiggins who took the lead in attacking 
Article I, which had become known as the “Sarbanes sub- 
stitute,” because Maryland Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes had 
a major hand in drafting it 

wiggins: Now, the heart of this matter is that the President 
made it his policy to obstruct justice and to interfere 
with investigations. Would you please explain to this 
member of the committee and to the other members, 
when, and in what respect and how did the President de- 
clare that policy? And I wish the gentleman would be 
rather specific, since it is the heart of the allegation. 
sarbanes: Well, of course, the means by which this policy 
has been done are the ones that are set out subsequent 
to the second paragraph. 

wiggins: If the gentleman could confine himself to the 
question, when was the policy declared? 
sarbanes: . . . Well, the policy relates back to June 17, 
1972, and prior thereto, agents of the committee com- 
mitted illegal entry, and it then goes on and says sub- 
sequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of 
his high office, made it his policy, and in furtherance of 
such policy did act directly — 
wiggins: I can read the article, but I think it is rather im- 
portant to all of us that we know from you, as the 
author of the article, exactly when this policy was de- 
clared, and I hope you will tell us. 

But Sarbanes was unable to do so. And this was due, as 
The Village Voice noted, “to the staffs failure to prepare 



424 



VICTOR LASKY 



the Democratic majority with the specifics it did have.” 
Then Sandman took over, hitting hard at his Democratic 
opponents and nearly toppling their defenses. 

sandman: Do you not believe that under the due-process 
clause of the Constitution that fsic] every individual, 
including the President, is entitled to due notice of what 
he is charged for? Do you believe that? 

Sarbanes: I think this article does provide due notice. 
sandman: You are not answering my question. 

Sarbanes: Well, I think I am answering your question. 
sandman: Well, let me ask you this, then. As I see this, 
you have about twenty different charges here, all on one 
piece of paper, and not one of them specific. . . . How 
does he answer such a charge? This is not due process. 
Due process — 

sarbanes: I would point out to the gentleman from New 
Jersey that the President’s counsel entered this committee 
room at the very moment that members of this com- 
mittee entered the room and began to receive the pre- 
sentation of information, and that he stayed in the 
room — 

sandman: I do not yield any further. 
sarbanes: — Throughout that process. 
sandman: I do not yield any further for those kinds of 
speeches. I want answers, and this is what I am entitled 
to. This is a charge against the President of the United 
States, why he should be tried to be thrown out of office, 
and that is what it is for. For him to be duly noticed of 
what you are charging him, in my judgment, he is en- 
titled to know specifically what he did wrong, and how 
does he gather that from what you say here? 

Still other Republicans joined the counterattack, de- 
manding “specificity” from the President’s accusers. Said 
Del Latta: “A common jaywalker charged with jaywalk- 
ing any place in the United States is entitled to know 
when and where the alleged offense is supposed to have 
occurred. Is the President of the United States entitled to 
less?” The impeachment spokesmen had no ready replies. 
They were being completely routed under the glare of the 
television lights. Some tried to fight back with the argument 
that the problem was they had too much evidence, not too 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 425 

little. “Isn’t it amazing?” Sandman hit back. “They are 
willing to do anything except make these articles specific. 
It is the same old story, you know, when you don’t have 
the law on your side, you talk about the facts. If you don’t 
have the facts on your side, you just talk, and that is what 
a lot of people have been doing today.” 

But it was all too late. Under pressure of a media which 
had suddenly discovered their “anguish” and “courage,” six 
of the more liberal Republicans broke ranks to vote with 
all the Democrats in favor of Article I. The vote to im- 
peach for obstructing justice was 27 to 11. And though it 
was generally applauded, there were voices of dissent. One 
was that of the Washington correspondent of Le Figaro , 
France’s leading newspaper. According to Jacques Jacquet- 
Francillon, “the eleven faithful Republicans who vainly 
pleaded the President’s cause during the last four days be- 
fore the Judiciary Committee” had underlined “that none 
of the points of Article I approved by the majority is really 
backed by precise facts. . . . They are denying Nixon the 
most elementary right of any accused man: to know pre- 
cisely for what he will have to defend himself.” And 
earlier in the week, the London Daily Express said the 
televised debate was “a political version of Peyton Place, 
a continuing story played up, or hammed up, by politicians 
chasing the limelight and using every twist and turn of the 
sad, messy saga for their own ends.” At the same time the 
London Daily Mail accused some sections of the American 
media of “lynch-mob behavior.” 

On Article II, which concerned allegation of abuses of 
power, the vote was 28 to 10. Article III had less support. 
By a vote of 21 to 17 the President was to be summoned 
to trial for defying the committee’s subpoenas. 

But the real blows to Nixon’s cause came from else- 
where. One of his top aides, John Ehrlichman, was con- 
victed in the Ellsberg break-in case. Had he been found 
innocent, that would have bolstered Nixon’s case enormous- 
ly. Instead when a jury in Watergate-obsessed Washington 
found Ehrlichman guilty, a lot of people appeared to trans- 
fer his guilt to the President. And even while the com- 
mittee was debating the articles of impeachment came an- 
other sledgehammer blow: John B. Connally, who had 
been Secretary of the Treasury and the man Nixon had 
hoped would succeed him as President, was indicted by the 



426 



VICTOR LASKY 



grand jury. The charge was taking a $10,000 bribe from 
the dairy interests. And its disclosure also had a profound 
effect on the impeachment proceedings.* 

The major accusations against the President, as con- 
tained in Articles I and II, were framed in very broad and 
general terms. For one thing it was difficult to determine 
the precise extent to which he was being held to blame for 
his own actions rather than those of his subordinates. 
Moreover many of the conclusions reached by the com- 
mittee were based largely on hearsay, guilt by association, 
suspicion, and opinion hung together with free-wheeling in- 
ferences. As editor C. L. Dancey observed in the Peoria 
Journal-Star , “The hard evidence isn’t there that actually 
links the President as a participant in illegal acts. You 
have to juggle it around in a pretty complicated manner to 
weave him into something in some way connected to some 
illegal act. What evidence does exist offers clues, only, 
that have to be interpreted and manipulated and which 
can be interpreted, therefore, in different ways.” In other 
words the charges were not spelled out with the “specificity” 
or the detail which would have been required, say, in any 
ordinary indictment In addition much of the case against 
the President appeared to be based on testimony given to 
grand juries and legislative investigators who, in turn, had 
never sought to resolve various contradictions of fact or 
challenge surmises, of which there was a superfluity. One 
thing was certain: Doar and company simply were not 
interested in obtaining exculpatory material of any kind, 
a fact made obvious by their reluctance to call major wit- 
nesses who could be subjected to cross-examination on past 
statements and assertions.** 

•Eventually a District of Columbia jury voted to acquit Connally, 
who had produced a dazzling array of character witnesses to testify 
that he was a man of “honor and integrity.” The witnesses, mostly 
Democrats, included Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird 
Johnson, Robert McNamara, Democratic Chairman Bob Strauss, 
and former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. 

••For a reasoned but devastating critique of the articles of im- 
peachment, see the minority views expressed in the Report on the 
Impeachment of Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States 
of the Judiciary Committee, as published August 22, 1974, in the 
Congressional Record, pp. H-9059 to H-9101. These were the views 
of Messrs. Hutchinson, Smith, Sandman, Wiggins, Dennis, Mayne, 
Lott, Moorhead, Maraziti, and Latta. 



IT DIDN’T START WITH WATERGATE 427 

Instead the committee unloaded a mountain of material, 
the sheer weight of which was bound to have an effect, 
for it consisted mainly of a one-sided presentation of in- 
formation taken from previous investigations, deliberately 
slanted to make President Nixon appear to be evil incar- 
nate. All of which, to a few observers at least, seemed a bit 
much. As Crosby S. Noyes put it in the Washington Star: 
“It is hard to avoid the impression that if a truly evil man 
set out consciously to abuse the formidable powers of the 
presidency, he would have raised a great deal more hell 
than Nixon has managed to do and would have ben a great 
deal harder to stop.” And it could also have been argued 
that the impeachment charges involving the alleged misuse 
of govermnent agencies — the FBI, CIA, IRS, and the like 
—could just as readily have been brought against almost 
every president from Franklin Roosevelt on, and most par- 
ticularly against John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. 

Of course this was no time for reason. Few really cared 
what was contained in the articles. A bandwagon psychol- 
ogy had gripped Washington and the move toward im- 
peachment was feeding on its own momentum. The media 
was in a frenzy. The Nixon-haters, who had seized on 
Watergate as lifeblood, smelled victory in the offing. They 
were finally going to “get” the man who had so galled them 
with his big win in 1972. All eyes were trained on the em- 
battled White House. 

After the deed was done, after Nixon raised his arms in 
the familiar double victory sign, stepped into the helicopter, 
and disappeared into the sky, Congressman Conyers told an 
interviewer: “But for the tapes, there would never have 
been an impeachment. Richard Nixon literally caused him- 
self to be impeached.”* 

And Leon Jaworski agreed. Interviewed shortly after the 
President’s resignation, the Watergate special prosecutor said 
that had it not been for the tapes, “Mr. Nixon would still 
be in the White House.” 

Then why, if he had been engaged in a conspiracy to 
obstruct justice, as alleged in Article I, had he turned over 
the tapes which led to his downfall? Why hadn’t he gone 

* As it turned out, neither the House of Representatives nor the 
United States Senate had the opportunity to vote on impeachment. 



428 



VICTOR LASKY 



ahead and obstructed justice? Why, at the very beginning, 
hadn’t he taken all the tapes and put the torch to them on 
the White House lawn — as John Connally and Pat Buchan- 
an, among others, had recommended? These are questions 
historians are going to be asking themselves. And their an- 
swers may well be different from those of most observers 
in recent years. For say what you will about Nixon, the 
preservation of the tapes was hardly the act of a man who 
knew in his heart he was guilty of crimes. Of course there 
is the argument that, being too lawyerly and believing in the 
law, Nixon didn’t have the heart to destroy evidence. The 
problem with this theory, as Nicholas von Hoffman has 
noted, is that it runs counter to “the utterly shamless devil- 
man hypothesis,” as propounded by many Nixon-baiters. 
Therefore, as von Hoffman pursued the subject, “if Richard 
Nixon is not purely evil, the question of why and how he 
was removed ceases to be an unalloyed struggle between 
the forces of darkness and light.” In other words not all the 
Good Guys were necessarily “good” or the Bad Guys neces- 
sarily “bad.” Human frailties were more than abundant on 
both sides. 

By this time the dwindling Nixori forces were in disarray, 
unable to stem the irreversible tide. They could take faint 
comfort in some